Province drops two new water bombers into Budget 2014

Published on March 26, 2014
TAKING FLIGHT — A water bomber is shown flying over an area of forest near Gander Lake. Concerns are being raised the potential elimination of what ultimately relates to a flight crew could essentially ground one of four aircraft assigned to the province, including the Central region, could have an impact on public fire safety.
Beacon File Photo

As budget 2014 approaches, provincial government news releases on spending are increasing from a trickle to a flood.

The province announced this morning, a day ahead of the budget being released, it will be purchasing two new Bombardier 415 water bombers.

The aircraft will cost US$73.7 million. Budget 2014 includes an investment of $11.7 million for the two planes.  

The announcement was made by Transportation and Works Minister Nick McGrath at Gander International Airport. The first of the aircraft will be delivered this spring. The second will arrive in the fall of 2015.

“Our government has made a firm commitment to building our forest fire capacity in Newfoundland and Labrador. As reflected by today’s major announcement we are fulfilling that commitment to replace decades-old water bombers with new state-of-the art infrastructure that strengthens our ability to protect communities and residents from the threat of forest fires,” McGrath said.

Once the first plane arrives, the province’s fire suppression aircraft will include four Bombardier 415 water bombers, one CL-215 water bomber and one Cessna spotter. The second new water bomber will replace the CL-215. The fleet is positioned in five bases - Wabush, Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Deer Lake, Gander and St. John’s.

“This is a considerable investment in integral infrastructure and ensures that we are well-positioned to minimize risk to provincial resources. While the permanent base of operations is in Gander, the aircraft will be strategically located during forest firefighting season. They will benefit the entire province,” said Kevin O’Brien, minister of advanced education and skills and MHA for Gander.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, on average there are 80 to 100 forest fires annually that need to be suppressed through aerial and ground efforts.