Providing aerial wildfire suppression services to the province of Manitoba, Canada

Providing aerial wildfire suppression services to the province of Manitoba, Canada

In 2018, a review by the Manitoba Department of Sustainable Development was done on the delivery of aerial wildfire suppression services for the province as part of an ongoing value-for-money analysis of government programs and service delivery. This review was undertaken to determine the optimal method to support the residents and communities of the region.

Based on operations in years prior, the government’s Wildfire Suppression Service provided approximately 1,400 flying hours and performed 3,750 water drops per season. The successful enterprise was expected to achieve and maintain in excess of 96% aircraft availability, ensuring aircraft are available for the firefighting season (1 April to 30 September).

Babcock was awarded the Wildfire Suppression Services Contract in 2018 for a period of ten years. The Wildfire Suppression Services Contract covers the entire province of Manitoba (over 649,950km2) and protects communities with a total population of 1.3 million people.

Babcock established its centre for aviation in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and assumed operations in three satellite bases across the province, in Gimli, The Pas, and Thompson. Babcock also undertook the management, maintenance, and operation of Manitoba’s fleet of seven Canadair water-bomber amphibious aircraft. The fleet consisted of four CL-415s and three CL-215s, as well as three Babcock-owned Twin Commander ‘bird-dog’ aircraft. To support the aerial emergency services for the province, Babcock hired 32 full time staff in critical operations and engineering roles.

The inaugural season in 2019 was a success. The team was called out to help fight 277 wildfires across Manitoba. Together, with our industry partners, our crews flew 364 missions and made 4,092 drops which amounted to over 25 million litres of water. Of the missions, the majority (251) were flown from Gimli, 80 from The Pas, 79 from Thompson, 50 from Winnipeg and 2 from other locations. Over the season, Babcock was able to surpass the expectations of the customer with, providing an aircraft availability of 99.7% throughout the fire season.