AEA Silver Dart, Robert Bradford

In spite of the strenuous efforts of firefighters from coast to coast, wildfire continued to spread almost unchecked across the forests and prairies of Canada during the early 20th century.

Rangers were few in number. Canada’s wilderness was vast. Settlers, farmers, lumbermen, railroaders, and campers were careless with fire. Effective fire legislation was in place, but it was difficult to enforce consistently.

Exciting new technology – the airplane – changed this early picture dramatically.

Aerial Patrol Crew, Ontario. ca 1922

The Silver Dart, the first heavier-than-air machine to take wing in Canada, lifted off at Baddeck, Nova Scotia in 1909. During World War I, a short time later, open cockpit biplanes were used for surveillance.

At the end of World War I, it was obvious that war planes could and should be used for peace-time purposes such as forest fire detection. Young pilots were back in Canada eager to fly. Surplus war planes were available for forestry operations. Canada was ready to take to the skies to detect fire.

To find out more about fire detection from the air, click on the titles below.

Photo Credits:
Canada Aviation Museum [AEA Silver Dart, Robert Bradford]
Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre [Aerial Patrol Crew, Ontario. ca 1922]
Online Exhibits