Department of Community Services

Fighting Wildfires

A variety of methods are employed to control fires, depending on the location and severity of the fire. During fire season, district offices maintain fire crews in a state of readiness to respond quickly.

"Initial attack" teams use helicopters to deliver crews to fire sites and "bucket" water onto fires while air tankers drop retardant to slow the fire's progress.

All firefighters are trained in a wide variety of skills, including fire behaviour and suppression, standard first aid and radio communications.

Several fire crews are contracted on a seasonal basis and stationed throughout the Yukon. A typical fire unit consists of a crew leader and two crew members, although crew sizes may vary. After initial notification of a fire, a helicopter usually drops three or more fire fighters to the ground with pumps, hose and other equipment. Fire fighters use trucks extensively around communities and work closely with volunteer fire departments.

Both fixed and rotary wing aircraft are integral elements of Wildland Fire Management operations. Wildland Fire contracts helicopter and fixed wing aircraft on an as needed basis and two tanker groups for the fire season. The airtanker groups are used to assist the firefighters by "boxing -in" fires to slow their spread. An environmentally friendly retardant containing a fertilizer base is used.

The tanker groups consist of: 

Group 1
The Lockheed L-188 Electra Airtanker is the optimal large capacity or "heavy" airtanker for the control of wildfires. It is fast, manoeuvrable and capable of carrying large loads of fire retardant (11,365 litres). Additionally, its tremendous power reserve contributes to an excellent margin of safety. Coupled with computerized constant/variable flow tank makes the L-188 one of the best airtankers available. It replaces the now retired DC-6. It has the same tank capacity but its traveling speed is much quicker therefore increasing response time. The Electra is guided by a bird-dog aircraft: a Turbo Commander TC 690.
  The Lockheed L-188 Electra










The Lockheed L-188 Electra

Group 2
The second airtanker group is comprised of three Air Tractor airtankers and a bird-dog support plane contracted with Conair out of Abbottsford, B.C.

The Air Tractor are former crop dusters and are regarded as an aircraft that’s both operationally effective and economical.  Designed from the wheels up to fight wildfires, it uses an advanced, patented computer-controlled fire gate to deliver optimum coverage levels with extreme accuracy. This season the Airtractors will be working with the Turbo Commander TC 690 Bird-dog.

Smaller twin engine aircraft or "bird-dogs" work with the groups and direct the airtankers to drop locations for their retardant and direct any other fire-fighting aircraft within the fire zone. During a fire action, the bird-dog has airspace authority over a five-mile radius. Yukon Wildland Fire Management uses two bird-dog aircrafts, one works with each tanker group.
Airtractor 802

The Airtractor 802

Bird-dogs and Electra at Whitehorse Tanker Base

Bird-dogs and L-188 Electra at the Whitehorse Tanker Base