Several firefighting aircraft from Canada have been in Montana this summer, on loan thanks to an international agreement. The provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta sent three CV-580 air tankers, two lead planes, and one Bell 212 helicopter under the provisions of an arrangement between five U.S. states and five Canadian provinces titled the “Northwest Wildland Fire Protection Agreement”, which allows ground and air firefighting resources to be exchanged between the two countries. The aircraft have been stationed at Helena and Billings since June.
Here is an excerpt from an article in the Billings Gazette about the agreement and the aircraft:
With the Canadian tankers and helicopter available, fire crews can throw more resources — and do it faster — than usual at new starts in an effort to nip them before they can blow up. For example, the Hibbard fire sparked on Sunday north of Pompeys Pillar and, within hours, three heavy tankers and a helicopter were helping local crews, dousing the fire after it burned 326 acres.
“We want to get in there and dogpile the fires as soon as we hear about them,” [Matt] Wolcott [the Montana DNRC Southern Land Office's area manager] said.
And its not just the Billings area benefiting from the Northwest Compact. They’ve helped out everywhere from Yellowstone National Park to the Hi-line, from the Crow Indian Reservation to the Missouri Breaks.
Last year, Montana also sent crews to help fight fires in Alaska and an overhead crew, engines and other resources to British Columbia during the 2010 fire season.
While the U.S. has sent ground-based firefighters to Canada on several occasions, I can’t recall any long-term deployment of government-owned air tankers from the U.S. to Canada. Oh, right… that’s because we don’t have have any.
Thanks go out to Dick and Kelly.