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Spectacular Firestorm

150 km North of Thunder Bay, Ontario - Sept. 13-17, 2006

Fighting Fire With Fire

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.

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The MNR helicopter with the drip torch activated.

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The smoke plume caused by the burnout was incredibly strong.

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I could easily feel the intense heat inside the helicopter as we flew along the fire line.

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The flames were several hundreds of feet high at times.

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Extremely intense rank 5 fire behavior.

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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.