As a devastating wildfire threatened to overwhelm the Village of Lytton this summer, one of the first calls for help went out to the Burnaby Fire Department (BFD).
Burnaby firefighters were quickly on the road to the Interior to provide structural protection and help coordinate the emergency response before the operation was taken over by the BC Wildfire Service. The deployment marked the first outing of the summer for a department that is frequently relied upon to provide support in wildland firefighting scenarios.
BFD is uniquely positioned to provide support in wildland firefighting situations and is often among the first to respond to calls for help in the Interior during the summer, explained Fire Chief Chris Bowcock. Unlike many other municipal departments, BFD has the equipment and experience to be a self-sustaining operation when they hit the road.
“We have a resource package that we send with our people,” said Bowcock. “It rolls with meals, sleeping arrangements, and the ability to set up our own camp.”
In addition to the logistical strength, Burnaby firefighters are also relied upon for their experience in critical command roles in wildland situations.
“The province understands our capability to provide command officers, create structure and implement plans to deal with today’s issues while planning for the future,” said Bowcock.
Since June 30, Burnaby firefighters have been deployed on an ongoing basis to the B.C. Interior. Crews will drive up to the Interior and work for seven days before returning back home to Burnaby. Careful management of resources and personnel means that these deployments are made without any impact on the delivery of services to Burnaby residents.
Providing support in wildfire situations is about more than just generating goodwill for the Burnaby Fire Department. Firefighters gain valuable wildland firefighting experience on the road, which will benefit Burnaby residents in the event that the city has to deal with its own wildfire scenario. There is no additional cost to Burnaby taxpayers, as the province covers the full cost for the firefighters’ time and equipment.
“The Burnaby Fire Department has always been ready to take on any task in the city, and it is the same across the province,” said Bowcock. “It takes personal sacrifice, taking time away from the families. But we really value the commitment.”
Burnaby firefighters have made a positive impact this summer, as captured in a letter the department recently received from ranchers in Spences Bridge whose property was saved by their efforts:
“The vacant land next to us and the mountain behind us were both on fire. Your crew helped keep our farm safe. Not a single blade of grass was burned on our property! Thank you so, so much! All of our neighbours’ properties along Highway 8 were also kept safe. The work of the firefighters has been stellar. We and our neighbours feel so appreciative.”
Due to improving conditions in the Interior, BFD crews demobilized on August 23 and returned to Burnaby until their services are requested again.