A skimmer aircraft conducted a “forced landing” while fighting the Connell Ridge wildfire approximately 15 kilometres south of Cranbrook on Tuesday evening, according to a statement from the BC Wildfire Service.
“This evening, a Conair 802 Air Tractor Fireboss Skimmer aircraft experienced an engine failure during operations on the Connell Ridge Wildfire, near Cranbrook,” said Ian Meier, executive director of the BC Wildfire Service. “The pilot conducted a successful forced landing and was transported to receive medical assessment.”
The plane was contracted by Conair Aerial Firefighting, which provides aerial firefighting resources for the BC Wildfire Service.
“Our thoughts are with the pilot involved in this incident as well as their family, friends and colleagues,” said Meier. “The BC Wildfire Service is providing all possible assistance to the pilot and Conair.”
Jeff Berry, Director, Business Development with Conair Aerial Firefighting, confirmed the pilot was able to walk away unharmed from the aircraft to a helicopter landing and taken back to Cranbrook for assessment by paramedics.
“His skill and training as an aerial firefighting pilot under challenging circumstances enabled him to execute an exceptional emergency manoeuvre resulting in a safe outcome,” said Berry. “He was faced with a problem with the engine, he went through his emergency procedures and put the aircraft down in such a way that he was able to walk away unharmed.
“Faced with a difficult bunch of decisions in a very, very short period, he did exceptionally well.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan provided more context during a media announcement on advanced education in Victoria on Wednesday.
“It was part of a firefighting opportunity to pick up, skim water off the lake, and there was engine challenges coming down for the skim so a forced landing was required but the pilot is safe and all is well,” Horgan said.
The Connell Ridge wildfire, estimated at 500 hectares, was discovered on Monday, Aug. 1.
BC Wildfire Service response includes two unit crews, an initial attack crew and air assets such as air tankers, helicopters and skimmers.
On Tuesday, the fire was burning as a moderate to highly vigorous surface fire with a moderate to fast rate of spread, according to wildfire officials.
An evacuation alert for six properties south of Mount Baker was issued by the Regional District of East Kootenay.
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