Home Business & Economy Emergency Management Municipal firefighters head to the wildland interface

Municipal firefighters head to the wildland interface

kelowna, wildfires, 2023
Wildfire raging in the Kelowna area of the BC Interior, interfacing with the urban community, week of Aug 21, 2023. [web]

Wednesday August 23, 2023 | LANGFORD, BC [Last updated 10:30 am on August 24, 2023]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends

Wildfires blaze on in BC this summer, most notably in the Okanagan area. Most of West Kelowna is on evacuation order or alert still.

As of today’s BC Wildfire update by Emergency Management and Climate Readiness Minister Bowinn Ma, there are 3,500 personnel under the BC Wildfire Service umbrella (including contractors and international firefighters) currently battling wildland fires in BC.

urban, wildfire, kelowna
Wildfire interface with urban housing – the summer 2023 wildfires in the Okanagan area. [web]

Together with that provincially-coordinated effort are 652 municipal firefighters from 108 municipalities across BC, she told media today.

Municipal firefighters are primarily trained in dealing with structure fires (at buildings like homes, offices, stores and industrial), but an increasing number of municipal firefighters are acquired skills to deal with wildland interface firefighting.

BC Wildfire Service has called this the worst wildfire season in BC history — given the resources needed and the impact on firefighters, people, businesses and communities as well as the forest and wildland areas that have burned.

West shore support:

Fire departments in municipalities around the west shore (including Langford, Colwood, Metchosin, View Royal, Sooke, Otter Point) have updated Island Social Trends as to their any involvement in working on fires in the Okanagan area. Most fire departments around the west shore have interdependence agreements — they help each other out across the region, as needed.

Metchosin Fire Department:

metchosin, fire chief, stephanie dunlop
Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop on the job. [supplied]

The Metchosin Fire Department has been deployed on various incidents since May of this year. They are currently active on the Adams Creek fire in various roles, says Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop.

“We are privileged to work with BCWS crews and contractors in helping to protect life and property,” said Dunlop in a statement to Island Social Trends today.

“It’s a very stressful time for the entire Province, but nothing compares to the distress felt by those being evacuated or suffering the loss of their homes,” said Dunlop.

“There are times when not even unlimited resource, the physical labour of hundreds, and sheer drive can calm the velocity of Mother Nature,” said Chief Dunlop today.

Langford Fire Rescue:

Currently Langford Fire Rescue does not have any members in the interior “to ensure that we have adequate resources here locally,” says Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey.

“We are supporting other departments who need replacement members to relieve their crews by providing one or two firefighters at a time to deploy with those departments,” Chief Aubrey told Island Social Trends today.

chris aubrey, paul hurst, fire cheif
Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey (left) and View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst, at the Lance Caven memorial event April 29, 2023. [Mary P Brooke / Island Social Trends]

“The conditions that firefighters are experiencing through the province are some of the most dangerous and volatile they have ever faced and they are working tirelessly to protect communities at risk,” says Aubrey.

“By working together with firefighters from all around the province, they are all demonstrating the cooperation, determination and courage needed to overcome this tremendous challenge. And in doing so, they are saving lives,” said Langford’s fire chief today.

“I pray that they all remain safe and that we get some precipitation soon so that evacuees will be able to finally return home,” says Chris Aubrey.

Sooke Fire Rescue:

The Sooke Fire Department has not, to this point, sent any personnel into the wildfire zones. “We have offered our assistance and they advised us that they don’t require it yet,” says Ted Ruiter, Sooke Fire Rescue Chief and Director of Community Safety.

Colwood Fire Rescue:

At this time, Colwood Fire Rescue has not deployed any resources over to BC Wildfire. “This summer has remained very busy for us locally and we are impacted with some of our own staffing challenges,” says Colwood Fire Chief Bryan Erwin.

“To ensure we have sufficient staffing to meet the operational needs of our community and that of the Westshore we have held off at this time,” says Chief Erwin.

“We are looking at supporting other departments and how best we can contribute moving forward to assist the province if further assistance is needed,” says Colwood’s fire chief.

MapleLine Business Centre, printing, west shore

National firefighting force:

Today the federal NDP pushed further their idea to create a Canada-wide wildfire emergency preparedness team that could be ready when incidents happen.

This summer’s wildfire season — which BC Wildfire Service’s Director of Operations, Cliff Chapman, has called the worst in BC history — has required support from international teams, including from Mexico, Brazil and Australia.

Police redeployment:

There is also some redeployment of local RCMP officers to assist with the wildfire response, says the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) today. One of their tasks is to go door-to-door to advise people about evacuation or other information.

“Redeployment will be done based on needs assessments and operational ability to assist, and in consultation with affected mayors,” said UBCM in a bulletin today.

Today’s wildfire stats:

As provided by BC Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness on August 23, 2023 (see August 23, 2023 BC Wildfire Update video on YouTube):

bowinn ma, media update, wildfire
Minister of Emergency Management and Climate Readiness, Bowinn Ma, during the Aug 23, 2023 BC wildfire update from Vancouver. [BC Govt]
  • 25,000 evacuees
  • 37,000 people on evac alert
  • 376 active fires
  • 3500+ wildland firefighters & support personnel
  • 652 structural firefighters
  • Do not travel to West Kelowna, Lake Country, Shuswap.
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