The Saskatchewan government has enlisted some natural allies in the fight against grass fires by deputizing dozens of aerial spray aircraft as air tankers. The crop spraying equipment can be used without modification to drop water on fires and the aircraft, many of which are sold as single engine air tankers to firefighting companies in the West, can switch to firefighting mode in a matter of minutes. “In the ag industry, we’re already almost running at like NASCAR (speed). We land, we load, we go and we do this all day long,” said Travis Karle, owner and chief pilot of Accumark Airspray.
So far, seven spray companies have been approved by Transport Canada to fight fires and another seven are in training. A total of 26 pilots are currently qualified. “Having the water onboard and using that to fight fire, it’s a natural transition,” Duane McKay Saskatchewan’s commissioner of emergency management and fire safety told Global. “But what we want to do is ensure the proper protocols are in place to ensure the safety of both the fire people on the ground, as well as the pilots.”