B.C. Wildfire Service initial attack crew member at scene of fire. (B.C. Wildfire Service photo)

B.C. Wildfire Service initial attack crew member at scene of fire. (B.C. Wildfire Service photo)

Firefighters gearing up for summer wildfire season

Crews positioned strategically around the northwest

The BC Wildfire Service has once again positioned crews around the northwest in preparation for another season of battling blazes.

In Terrace, personnel are located at a base at the Northwest Regional Airport to cover what the BC Wildfire Service calls the Skeena Zone, one of four zones making up the Northwest Wildfire Centre which has its headquarters in Smithers.

Within the BC Wildfire Service, three-person or four-person initial attack crews are generally the first on the scene of fires and are able to operate independently.

But should more assistance be required, unit crews of either 20 or 22 people in size are dispatched to a blaze.

Three of the region’s four unit crews continue to have distinctive names — the Terrace Firebirds, the Telkwa Rangers and the Hazelton Rainmakers while the unit crew in Burns Lake is known as the Burns Lake unit crew.

This year the wildfire service has beefed up the numbers for both initial attack and unit crews, says communications official Carolyn Bartos who works at the Northwest Wildfire Centre.

“We will be adding an assistant crew supervisor to two unit crews within the Northwest Fire Centre as well as an additional crew member to the Burns Lake unit crew and the Hazelton Rainmakers. An additional crew member will be added to the three initial attack crews located in the Bulkley Fire Zone,” she said.

The increase in personnel will allow the unit crews to have four five-person squads for crew configuration while the additional crew member to the initial attack crews increase their capacity for an initial attack wildfire response, Bartos added.

The Terrace location is home to three three-person initial attack crews and one 20-person unit crew as well as specialized personnel — a wildfire officer, a wildfire assistant, a wildfire technician and an operations assistant.

When not on fire duty, initial attack crews can clean up hazardous material that could be problematic in case a fire broke out and provide assistance to community-based outdoor recreation amenities such as bike trails and hiking trails.

And depending upon local needs, crews can also be freed up for duty in other parts of the province, other parts of Canada or even be sent outside of the country should other jurisdictions require the presence of trained professionals.

Here’s a rundown of where crews will be located within the Northwest Fire Centre’s four fire zones this season:

Skeena Fire Zone –

Terrace:

One unit crew and three three-person initial attack crews

Bulkley Fire Zone –

Telkwa:

One unit crew and three 4-person initial attack crews

Hazelton:

One unit crew

Nadina Fire Zone –

Burns Lake:

One unit crew and three three-person initial attack crews

Houston:

Two three-person initial attack crews

“Our crews rotate through the Cassiar Fire Zone throughout the spring and summer as that zone does not have any dedicated crews,” said Bartos.

The BC Wildfire Service also employs 16 junior firefighters in the region in July and August, she said.

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