ROTHENBURGER – Should B.C. get its own air wing for fighting wildfires?

(Image: Viking Air)

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

ONE OF THE MANY QUESTIONS on everybody’s mind during this smoky, fiery summer is, “how can we do this better?”

That is, are there more effective ways to fight wildfires than what we’ve been doing? Armchair Mayor reader Tony Klancar thinks so. He thinks B.C. needs its own air wing, one that could be anchored with a made-in-B.C. airtanker designed and built specifically for fighting fires, unlike others that are adapted for the job.

The answer, he suggests, just might be the made-in-B.C. Canadair CL-415, a big red and yellow bird that costs $30 million apiece and can scoop up 1,400 gallons of water in 12 seconds. Nicknamed the Super Scooper, 69 of them fly in eastern Canada, and another 100 in other parts of the world. This is not your grandfather’s Mars Martin.

Thirty million is nothing to sneeze at but its manufacturers claim that, due to its capabilities it’s actually highly cost effective.


Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9233 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

7 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – Should B.C. get its own air wing for fighting wildfires?

  1. We don’t need a whole fleet of expensive aircraft. We really only need one . google “global super tanker ” This monster would have stopped any of the giant fires we had this year. It won’t be available till 2022 but we ( B.C,) should get our minds out into the sunshine and use some of the newer tech available. Since the days of converted B-26 and B-17 or even the Martin Mars this 747 is beyond belief.

  2. All in all the current arrangement is probably fine. The costs to set-up another government entity just to fight fires (and them be on standby most of the time) would be astronomical. For sure upgrades and audits of current practices should be carried out regularly and so too forest management practices.

  3. Elon Newstrom // July 28, 2021 at 10:25 AM // Reply

    Right Tony! And not just an Air Wing (which we can envision as a whole Squadron of large and small water bombers with trained and ready air crew) but also 24/7 Standby Crews of Boots on
    the Ground armed with mattocks, squirt pumps, and shovels ready to pounce on lightning strikes and abandoned campfires, rappelling if appropriate out of helicopters. I’m waiting for Horgan to man up and start an inquiry into how and why Sparks Lake Fire got out of control on the first day and set the whole province on our back foot, I mean boot.

  4. I have long thought that we need a version of FDRs Civilian Conservation Corps, year round trained medical, environmental , forestry, disaster response force available on demand and properly funded…even Ottawa would share…

  5. John Morgan // July 28, 2021 at 9:35 AM // Reply

    One airframe doesnt fit all situations there are flying tractors aka skimmers, Conair’s (Abbotsford) fleet of highly modified corsairs? and DC 6s, then there are Coulson’s (Port Alberni) modified Boeing 737s and heavy lift helicopters. Things like climb ratios and terrain and retardant capability determine which piece of equipment is used where. Both above contractors take equipment elsewhere in the world for our off season. Notably neither seem to use the Canadair??
    A bit more transparency in Wildfire BC’s budget proces might be better, currently they work with a minimal budget but routinely over run it sometimes by 30 x in bad fire years funding the over budget expenditure à from the province’s emergency budget process. Policy and decision making based on actual expenditures and risk management might be an improvement.

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