The Buffalo Canadair CL-415 was a familiar sight in the air during the Silver Creek Fire. Favoured by the Forest Service, it could maneuver the tight spatial conditions of the Salmon Valley.
After leaving the airport, the CL-415 2-person crew headed directly for a suitable water scooping spot on Shuswap Lake as close to the fire as possible. Within 10 seconds the plane scooped up 5,550 litres of water into its internal tanks. When its water pickup probes retracted, the aircraft headed towards the fire.
The water drop was well coordinated. The Air Attack Officer on board the Bird Dog plane instructed the pilot of the CL-415 on where and how to drop the load and whether or not to add retardant. If instructed, the crew on the CL-415 injected a soapy solution into the water tanks, giving the water a foam-like consistency that helped increase its effectiveness.
There were two water tanks on board the aircraft. The loads of water were dropped separately or simultaneously, depending on fire conditions.
James Murray, Salmon Arm Observer, c. 1998