km North of Thunder Bay, Ontario - Sept. 13-17, 2006
Fighting Fire With
September 2006 saw the most intense
late season forest fire activity in Northern Ontario in over 20
years. At one point there were some 400 fires burning and over
a thousand people were evacuated from their homes. Dry, hot weather
all summer had left the forest like a tinderbox and recent dry
thunderstorms easily ignited the available fuels. I hopped on
a last minute flight north to Thunder Bay where I met up with
FireRanger crews from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.
We were able to observe many of the fires from helicopter as well
as from the ground.
The most spectacular event was
when they were conducting a back-burning operation to bring the
forest fire to the waters edge. We were flying just above the
treetops in a helicopter with the doors removed while filming
a second helicopter that was rigged with a Northern Helitorch
to burn the forest ahead of the main forest fire. The drip torch
uses gelled gasoline that is pumped past a propane igniter. It
is used to "Fight fire with fire" when the weather conditions
are just right.
It was like being in a Hollywood
blockbuster. The fire was burning so hot that my camera was warm
to the touch inside the helicopter. Truly spectacular is an understatement.
The MNR helicopter with the drip
The smoke plume caused by the burnout
was incredibly strong.
I could easily feel the intense
heat inside the helicopter as we flew along the fire line.
The flames were several hundreds
of feet high at times.
Extremely intense rank 5 fire behavior.
Water bombers from Quebec were in
the area, lending air support.
Many thanks to everyone at the
Ministry of Natural Resources and Mitch Miller in particular
for helping with this film shoot.