Region’s last large fire crew heads to Alberta

More northwest firefighters have headed to Alberta to lend a hand fighting blazes there.

  • May. 26, 2011 10:00 a.m.

More northwest firefighters have headed to Alberta to lend a hand fighting blazes there.

The 20-person unit crew Telkwa Rangers left B.C. yesterday, arriving in Hinton, Alberta, for debriefing and will be dispatched to work on any of the fires in the province.

The northwest fire centre’s three other 20-person unit crews – the Hazelton Rainmakers, the Terrace Firebirds and a crew from Burns Lake – flew out last week to help out.

This means that as of yesterday, all four unit crews are in Alberta, some located in the northern part of the province near Fort MacMurray and some working on the fire in the Slave Lake community.

They’ll be there for up to 14 fire days, which is bumped to 19 days including travel and fire line days.

Four staff from the northwest region also travelled to Alberta last week.

Yesterday’s deployment was the fourth wave of firefighters the province sent to Alberta in a mutual aid sharing agreement. There are currently 611 B.C. fire personnel helping manage fire activity there.

The region’s fire information officer Lindsay Carnes says there are still initial attack crews within the northwest ready in case fire spreads here.

These are our first responders when it comes to forest fires and it is these crews that contain over 90 percent of all of our fires at less than four hectares in size,” she said. “The sustained action 20-person crews that we sent are usually used on the small percentage of fires that are not contained at less than four-hectares in size.”

There are eight three-member initial attack crews working in the area, with two from Terrace, one in Dease Lake, two in Telkwa, one in Houston and two in Burns Lake.

Some initial attack crew in the southern half of the northwest are being relocated to the northern half of the region, which Carnes says is at a slightly elevated risk of fires. The fire centre will also be working with the Yukon fire centre in case it needs assistance with suppressing fires along the Yukon border.

Carnes also pointed out that there is favourable weather throughout most of the northwest region, making it possible to have crews deployed to Alberta. She said the crews can be recalled at any time if the weather should change.

We also have up to 50 local contract firefighters that could be utilized in a sustained action role for fires larger than four hectares,” she said.

These are contract firefighters are based throughout the northwest, usually through forestry companies that have a standing offer with the fire service to provide firefighting crew when needed, Carnes said; these crews are required to have a certain level of training, experience, and supervision as well as equipment.