Aerial crews from Penhold have been busy battling B.C. forest blazes

Penhold-based air crews working tirelessly to suppress B.C. wildfires are finally getting a break this week.

Penhold-based air crews working tirelessly to suppress B.C. wildfires are finally getting a break this week.

“With lower temperatures and showers, they’re getting some relief over there,” said Perry Dancause, operations manager for Air Spray Aviation Services, which operates out of the Red Deer Regional Airport and specializes in air tanker forest fire suppression.

There are 400 forest fires in British Columbia, including several that have impeded firefighting efforts with dense smoke and have threatened homes near Kamloops.

But Dancause said it hasn’t been an extraordinarily active fire season. “B.C. got kind of hammered with lightning . . . but that’s just Mother Nature showing us what she can do.”

Air Spray has eight airplanes in B.C. — including four L-188 Electra airliners that were converted to tankers. They have been fire fighting near Penticton, William’s Lake, Castlegar and Prince George as needed.

Dancause said the company’s planes have been contracted by government agencies that determine where the need is greatest, as well as where the planes can make the most difference.

With enormous, problem fires “we can’t do a lot” from the air, said Dancause — other than wait for the weather to turn. “When they’re too huge, you can’t contain them, what you really need are people on the ground.”

This year, Alberta’s fire season started early and then petered out with high summer rains.

Dancause recalled there was lots of activity in April, when there was no snow and drying winds. But this month, Air Spray only has four planes, including two tankers, in Alberta near Edson and Grande Prairie.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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