The sleepy forest fire season in northwestern Ontario finally kicked in with a vengeance, when, after a long spell of drought, dry lightning ran through the district. Dryden-16 was ignited not far from the Federal Government’s Experimental Lakes Area at Hayes Lake. Given the values associated with this operation (at the time about a million dollars), maximum resources were committed to the fire. An understandably nervous Experimental Lakes management official was somewhat mollified by the size and subsequent success of this fire control effort.
Initially, we were doing so much flying on 16 that Marc Pigeon and I were unable to get back to town, and we ended up staying overnight at the Experimental Lakes site. Through the kindness of staff and summer students, we managed to get clean clothes to wear when we were unable to return to town for six or seven nights.
By June 30, fire crews were just beginning to get a handle on Dryden-16 when word of a nearby new blaze was radioed to us. Given the proximity of the existing suppression operation, we were the first to attempt an initial attack on Dryden-18; however, wind, drought conditions and blowdown prevailed, and before long we had another large fire on our hands.
This new start in blowdown served to fan the flames of Dryden-16. The two fires joined, and what control success we had on 16 was now to be the beginnings of a monster–although we didn’t know that at the time. That would be no disappointment for the company, since the appropriate pickle jar was quickly filling with much-needed cash at short-term hire rates to finance the equipment Viking had purchased.
As the days progressed and drought and wind prevailed over the long term, it became obvious that additional resources were required beyond what was available within the province. Helicopters, fixed-wing air attack aircraft, and crews were all brought in from other jurisdictions to help in the suppression efforts.