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The Best Management Practices for Water Bombers and Forest Fires 

Just one 415 Super Scooper Canadian water bomber does a great job but consider what a squadron of 15 of them could do with a continual stream being placed on a fire. It would be awesome! The fire wouldn't like it.

Our Premise is that the best place to acquire and operate water bombers is the Air Force.  The best aircraft for putting out forest fires is the Canadian designed and built 415 Super Scooper!

The existing situation is that each Province is responsible for protecting it's resources and managing it's forests. We have very talented people doing this dangerous and demanding job. The big problem is that they huge challenges and have very limited resources and very limited numbers of air tankers specifically designed to put out fires and climate change is resulting in new challenges that our existing methods and  budgets cannot handle. 

So the idea here is to open the boundaries, increase our amount of available equipment in the form of several RCAF squadrons of the best water bomber in the world. We still need our existing Forest fire administration and Fire Fighters. But with this extra equipment we can put the fires out faster,  offer more safety to our fire fighters and better react to the real changes caused by climate change.

A single 415 Super Scooper is impressive but how about a squadron of 15 that could dump up to 1.5 million liters of water on a fire in just one hour!

When we review the existing operators of the CL215 and 415 we find that in some countries their Air Force is the operator and in others it is not. In some cases such as Canada individual Provinces have acquired the aircraft and a few commercial ventures or government agencies have them.  In some cases a Province will lease out the aircraft when the fire season is over. Quebec does this and leases out two aircraft to Southern California each year. 

The problem is that each Province that acquires water bombers only obtains a small number of them ranging from 1 to five. That is all they can afford. Annual fire budgets are small for example in BC and Saskatchewan budgets are only approximately 60 million a year.  Then when a serious fire situation develops Provinces attempt to share resources. The result is that there are never enough water bombers to knock down a fire so that fire fighters can finish putting it out. And the travel time between Provinces is substantial making a quick response to a fire impossible. 

A substantial portion of the fire fighting budget often goes to private helicopter companies rather than wages to fire fighters who receive much lower wages compared to city fire fighters. These companies transport the fire fighters to remote areas and will drop small amounts of water using bags carried under the aircraft. The hourly cost to operate the helicopters is high making the small amount of water they can drop very expensive and questionable benefits for large fires.

The problem with operating the aircraft from a smaller organization or a commercial venture is that they have smaller budgets and fewer resources. Another problem is that the central government will have additional responsibilities such as sovereignty patrols, search and rescue, etc that the planes can be applied to when not fighting fires. The airforce has an existing command structure, an excellent communications system and also has facilities and staff that could be used to support the water bomber fleet. 

A problem develops when a country chooses to follow the Canadian example which includes Provincial control and private sector for profit companies. Once these relationships are set up they are difficult to convert into the air force model. (Turf wars!). We Canadians are proud and tough and the last thing we admit is that we need help! But we also like to help! So at times it gets a bit confusing. 

From a business perspective it has always been my opinion that Government is responsible for setting up the infrastructure which will allow private companies to operate and prosper. They require a safe work environment, adequate affordable power, space to work, a transportation system to convey materials, a steady financial system with available credit and a source of educated and trained workers. Applying this approach to fires the government is responsible for putting fires out and limiting damages to the land and equipment. But in Canada because the forests are considered to be natural resources -responsibility for their management rests with individual Provinces. And so the (Harper) Federal government was refusing to take any responsibility for fighting forest fires!  We have a new government now and hopefully things will change!

We understand business. Our Publishing company has published what has been called "the best book ever on Business in Canada" Your Very First Billion. I have also owned my own businesses, have worked as a Junior Forest Ranger in my youth and have served in the  Military and in Finance. I am not a professional Forest Fire Fighter but I do understand what they are up against and I have been trained in fire fighting in the Navy. My ideas are certainly different but trust me they are based on factual information and my suggestion is that the ideas  be considered as an option  for fighting fires in our new climate.

There are areas where the private sector can operate well in this water bomber Air Force based plan. They can provide pilot training, repair and re-sale services. And the more aircraft sold the better business will be. There are billions of dollars of potential business and wealth creation here. There are hundreds of potential good paying jobs too!

Lets briefly consider pilot training. Flying the water bomber is much more demanding than flying a normal twin engine aircraft in that you also need to be trained in fighting fires. This involves bringing the aircraft down to water level, scooping up a load in 12 seconds and delivering on target. But how does an aspiring water bomber pilot receive training? How many flight schools have access to a 37 million dollar aircraft? This is a good example of where the government needs to step in to provide the infrastructure for this training to occur. The private sector can perform the training and they do this with our CF-18 pilots but somebody with a larger budget needs to provide access to the aircraft. Economies of scale would click in if the Air Force had water bomber squadrons in it's mix of aircraft. Right now in Canada it is extremely difficult and expensive to become a trained water bomber pilot. 

From an Air Force perspective there will be those who would prefer to have only warplanes in the air force inventory. There was a time when Canada had a very significant bomber group called 6 Group and they conducted over 40,000 sorties over enemy territory in WW2. With fires we do not require bombers that drop bombs but we do require bombers that drop water and help put out fires and protect the public and our environment. For an Air Force pilot this is a different way of looking at bombing! It is also the only time that people welcome bombers and the money that they save by putting out fires. And yes we still need fighter -interceptors to protect our airspace and Canadian interests. The RCAF is understandably reluctant to include non military aircraft in it's fleet because the Harper Federal government did not provide them with enough resources to maintain their fighter aircraft. In fact NATO has requested that Canada double it's budget for the military but our Harper government had refused because they want to "save money" and "balance the budget" So they only spent less that 1% of our GDP on defense rather than the 2% NATO suggested as a minimum.

People really need to do the math when considering the best ways to fight forest fires. Each year in Canada there are approximately 8500 fires reported which destroys 2.5 million hectares of timber. And each year in Canada only 1 million hectares of timber are harvested. Canadians spend about 800 million a year on fire suppression. That amount has shot up in 2015. It has shot up even more in 2016. The real shocker is that the export value of Canada's annual timber exports exceeds 40 billion dollars. One could consider then that for every tree exported in the form of timber 2.5 trees go up in smoke! When you look at the numbers you can see what the problem is. The fires in Fort MacMurray have caused more than 9 billion dollars of damage!

Now because Canada does not have squadrons of super scoopers available to put out forest fires we often use commercial helicopters to drop bags of water on fires. The helicopter companies are desperate for this income.  The pilots are great but the reality is that this is a foolish way of fighting a large fire. Yes there may be some very specific cases where a helicopter can do the job when the super scooper can't.  But lets do a study. Lets calculate the cost of each litre of water dropped by a helicopter vs dropped by a super scooper and lets consider how many litres of water could be dropped in a given amount of time. In other words the super scooper could put the fire out faster with less loss of logs for less money.  Helicopters are still required but they are not suitable for taking the place of a super scooper which is what they are being used for now in many locations.

Accountants are responsible for the Chart of Accounts and budgets in their area. In their minds expenses are bad and revenues are good. So the tendency here is to limit expenses and they would see a water bomber Air Force as an additional source of expenses to their budget. But what they don't see is the billions of dollars of net savings that is distributed across other charts of accounts and asset values. And that is the danger. In other words an Accountant is trained to cut an expense that would save other areas billions of dollars. Accountants have no way to account for the value of having a water bomber airforce. There is no way to identify this value on the accounting statements that they produce. I have worked in Accounting for many years and I do understand how it works.

Accountants are intelligent, hard working people but they have no method in their generally accepted accounting practices of accounting for net values outside of their budgets. So in this case if it cost one billion dollars to set up a squadron of trained pilots and equip them with 15 super scoopers the Accountants would panic and not take into account that the squadron could save Canada 5 billion a year and generate thousands of jobs that would generate billions more in tax revenue. We need an upper level decision on this idea that does not simply concentrate on eliminating expenses and balancing the budget. And we also need a financial analysis of the costs and benefits of establishing a water bomber airforce.

Clearly the existing system designed to protect our forests and environment is not working very well. The fires speak for themselves. There is climate change occurring and that is resulting in a very substantial growth of the number of forest fires every year now. But remember the natural human approach to solving problems is to simplify them and say that there is one problem that needs to be fixed and in this case the culprit is "climate change". But that is just not true. There is more going on than just climate change.  The management of our forests often leaves undergrowth which is an easy source of fire. Old growth forests do not have this problem. And nobody working in our forests wishes to take responsibility for causing future fires nor does our provincial governments who are responsible for managing our forests want to admit that their management techniques have not worked. And so much of the public simply blames it all on climate change. So things become a bit amusing. Do you better manage the forests and not have as many fires or do you apply more water bombers to put those fires out?  My suggestion is that you do both. 

So those five squadrons of Canadian built water bombers are beginning to look a bit more interesting. We could have them for under five billion dollars and if we cut our fire losses by 50% we would save assets which if exported would total over 50 billion dollars a year. Not a bad investment! From an Accounting perspective remember that we look at the problem much differently. Each organization has something called a Chart of Accounts. In the case of Provinces they have expense accounts related to the suppression of fires. An Accountant will wish to minimize all expense accounts. But in reality we have lumber companies who have revenue accounts and Accountants there wish to maximize revenue in these accounts. So pay attention. If in the Government you minimize expense accounts to fight fires you also minimize revenue accounts in private companies which are attempting to harvest and process the wood! Trees are an asset and if you destroy the trees with fire then you also destroy the wood products that could potentially be produced from those trees. So do the math and that's how you get that 50 billion dollars that I suggested was the potential loss from forest fires each year. 

Some people get nervous when talking about a billion dollars. We don't. In fact our book Your Very First Billion explains why. Unless you can think in billions you won't be able to understand why placing 5 squadrons of water bombers in our Air Force is such a fantastic idea. If you just look at the expense side of the journal you will not see the net benefits these aircraft could produce. You must look at the bigger picture and charts of accounts in both the public and private sectors to identify the net value of having a water bomber Airforce. And that is the job of the Federal government the one that I wrote to (the Harper government) and was told it was a provincial responsibility. I guess they wanted to "save money" and "balance the budget" and were willing to write off billions of dollars of forest fire loses each year. 

Individual Provinces are working very hard to put out their forest fires. They have a very hard working, brave group of fire fighters. But the situation has changed and now their equipment and resources have been overwhelmed. Hundreds of fires have been burning and growing and were out of control. Billions of dollars of damages were done. 

The waterbomber airforce concept is one option for solving the forest fire situation in Canada. It will require that changes are made. It will require a large investment. We are in the position of having the best water bomber design and production in the world. As a first step a Financial Analysis of the idea is required. We need to review the Provincial fire fighting expenses, the costs to establish a squadron of RCAF waterbombers and the costs associated with a pilot project to test the idea. And we also need to look at the net benefits not just the individual chart of accounts expenses. 

With this fire season the Provinces are now looking for new options for fire fighting. They are looking to the Federal Government for assistance. This is no longer just a Provincial problem it is a Canadian problem and we need a Canadian solution. 

In June of 2016 we saw a huge change in business related to the sale of the rights to producing and maintaining the CL415 and CL215 waterbombers once manufactured by Bombardier. A new company purchased these assets. The Company is a private Canadian Company owned by one of the richest families in Canada. It looks to me that potential has returned for the production of more Canadian waterbombers that ended when the final production line was shut down to lack of orders in 2015. 

 

 


LINKS

A Taxpayer's Guide to Wild Fire Suppression Costs An American publication that identifies problems with costs in wild fire suppression in the USA. The Canadian situation is different in several respects however there are interesting points made on climate change and associated costs, use of helicopters and several other points. Well researched. 

Role of the Helitanker in Forest Fire Control 1974  A Canadian publication which is quite old however there are some interesting points regarding costs per hour which could be updated for comparison. Helicopters continue to be used for wild fires however the 415 Super Scooper can drop much more water in a shorter period of time. 

BC Wildfire Service Prov. of BC A summary of past forest fires with costs and numbers of fires. Gives a good idea of what the challenges are. 

Air Tanker Drops are Often Just for Show -Los Angeles Times This is an American perspective on the problems they are having with their fires and the difficulty in getting the best aircraft to do the job. They point out the difficulty and expense of using helicopters and fixed wing aircraft not designed for fire fighting. But what they don't do is review the capabilities of the best water bomber in the world the Canadian Bombardier 415 Super Trooper. California actually has an airforce to fight forest fires but they don't have a squadron of Super Scoopers. Americans are the worlds best neighbors but they absolutely hate purchasing aircraft made by other countries. I would just love to see a squadron of RCAF Super Scoopers swoop in and 15 aircraft methodically attack a wildfire dropping 1.5 million litres an hour on it. I guarantee we would immediately receive lots of orders!

Your Very First Billion We published the best book ever written about business in Canada written by Miss Marcie M. Farsea. In 420 pages in novel format Marcie shows you how business really works here. Business in Canada is different than business in the USA or most other countries. In fact if Target Canada executives had read the book they would still be in business! Entertaining and very readable! 

 


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