Nova Scotia beefs up firefighting arsenal with 4 new helicopters

Nova Scotia's Department of Natural Resources will face the 2017 forest fire season with some brand new equipment.

One of four new H-125 Airbus helicopters arrived in February and a second one was scheduled to land in Shubenacadie, N.S., Thursday afternoon.

Walter Fanning, the department's executive director of regional services, was one of three officials who spoke to a provincial committee on resources Thursday morning.

"All the pilots and engineers are very excited," said Fanning. "This is a significant advancement in technology for us."

Last August, firefighters with Natural Resources battled a forest fire for 10 days near Kejimkujik National Park. The fire took place during extreme drought conditions in southwestern Nova Scotia. 

The third helicopter is expected this summer with the final one arriving in 2018.

$16 million price tag

The new helicopters will be able to stay in the air significantly longer than the current fleet, which is made up of five different aircraft. They will also be able to carry three times more water.

Deputy minister Julie Towers told committee members the new equipment will be also be more flexible when it comes to other emergency situations. The department's equipment is sometimes used in search-and-rescue operations.

"They can act for medevacs because you can actually fit a stretcher in there now," said Towers. "And just the way they are set up, you can see a lot better."

The new fleet is estimated to cost about $16 million, but provincial officials say it will be at least another 25 years before the new helicopters need replacing. They say maintenance costs should only be a third of what was being spent on the existing fleet.