Basic Forest Fire Suppression Course - Online Lessons


6.3 Water Drop Safety

During extreme fire conditions, additional aircraft can be “ borrowed ” from other agencies across Canada to provide suppression activities that we do not have in Nova Scotia. Under an agreement with CIFFC (Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center), Nova Scotia has access to aircraft from across Canada.. The aircraft most often requested are the CL 215 or CL 415 Bombardier air tanker. The CL 415 has the ability to load water from a water source by “scooping” 6100 litres in about a 12 second span. Once loaded, the plane will drop water on a selected part of the fire. Because of its volume it does not dissipate but falls in a very defined pattern. 6100 litres represents 8 tons of water; enough to snap tops off trees 8 inches in diameter and move heavy objects.

When dropping water on a fire, the effected area is called the drop zone. This area covers approximately 2.4 hectares ( 60m x 400m), an additional safety margin called the safety zone extends another 150 metres. When aircraft are operating on a fire, all crews will be notified in advance so that necessary precautions are taken. It is vital to stay clear of the drop zone, however if you are in the vicinity of an aircraft and you are uncertain about the drop zone, there are procedures that need to be followed:

  1. Try and find a site avoiding trees and rocks
  2. Place any hand tools behind you (as long as there is no one else behind you).
  3. Lay down with your head facing the water drop
  4. Ensure all protective equipment is worn (hard hat with chin strap, eye and ear protection)
  5. Keep your head low and hold tight