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Wildfire and the Working Forest Part 2: Readiness

J.D. Irving, Limited manages 2.4 million hectares (5.9 million acres) of forest in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Maine. Minimizing the impacts of wildfires in the working forest and surrounding communities is an important facet of the company’s approach to sustainable forest management.

This is the second in a three-part series about wildfires and the working forest. Part 2 focuses on the steps JDI takes to ensure fire readiness before forest fires occur.

Each year J.D. Irving, Limited’s Woodlands Division has robust contingency planning, resource preparations to ensure its team is tested and ready to immediately respond to fires. By the numbers, these resources include:

  • Four Air Tractor AT-802 with 800-gallon capacity,
  • One Kodiak spotter plane,
  • Two helicopters with 300-gallon capacity,
  • 37 fire trucks with 1,000-gallon capacity,
  • 115 trained firefighters,
  • Three helicopter pilots,
  • Seven airplane pilots,
  • 360,000 feet of hose and
  • Six private airstrips.

Behind these resources is more than 1,000 hours of annual training for staff and contractors. This takes the form of both course-based training recognized by government regulators and hands-on equipment training such as mock fires.

IMG_1713 (1).JPGRyan Peck, Duty Officer and Lead Pilot with Forest Patrol Ltd., briefs his team on a training exercise at the Juniper, NB air base.

Part of fire readiness means keeping track of weather and forest conditions. Members of the Woodlands team monitor this daily and make recommendations on what resources should be in place to address the wildfire risk of the day. At times, forest operations will be paused when fire risk is very high. 

The Woodlands Division also has a central dispatch fire alarm system. When there is a potential or confirmed fire on JDI-managed land, all division staff receive an alert on their mobile phones sent within minutes of a reported fire so they can immediately begin to respond.

Forest fires can happen on any day and could require a drawn-out response. To prepare, the Woodlands division has both weekend standby resources and contingency plans in the event of a multi-day fire. This includes planning for additional equipment resources and logistics support like fuel, food, drinking water and accommodations.

JDI is always investing in resources to fight fires and it maintains its own aircraft, airstrips and firefighting equipment. Last year, the company replaced its older, 500-gallon, single engine air tankers with four new 800-gallon Air Tractor AT-802 planes. These modern fire-fighting aircraft double the aerial team’s capacity to deliver fire retardants, water and foam to fires and they increased travel speeds by 60 per cent.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing the risk of fires. Prevention measures like not leaving a fire unsupervised, paying attention to fire risk notices and weather conditions, sticking to trails when in the woods and not driving ATVs over dry brush/grass can go a long way in preventing fires from starting.

If someone notices a fire has become out of control, call 911.

For more on wildfires and the working forest, check out the other stories in this series.

Part 1: Resiliency 

Part 3: Response