Throughout the New Brunswick wildfire season, Forest Protection employs a team of Air Tanker Loaders to support the Aerial Forest Fire Suppression program. Our loaders work behind the scenes of our fearless fleet and are essential in ensuring the correct fire-retardant mixture is loaded into each air tanker for safe and efficient fire responses.
It is imperative that the air tanker loaders pay special attention to the precise type and mixture of retardants being loaded into each aircraft. It plays an important role in the retardant effectiveness on the ground as well as the weight and balance of the aircraft. On top of the week-long training boot camp at the beginning of the wildfire season, our loaders undergo continual proficiency training throughout the season to stay sharp. Routine reload base checks are also conducted to ensure equipment is functional and ready to go when the time comes.
Based on the daily provincial alert level, our teams need to be ready for dispatch anywhere from 90 minutes on lower fire hazard days, to an immediate launch on severe fire hazard days. Given a fire dispatch, a shadow team consisting of two loaders and a pilot will travel to the nearest reload base to the fire, ensuring the proper equipment is operational and ready to use for when the tankers land for a reload. This allows for quick turnaround times for our air tankers, resulting in more action time on wildfires.