Columbia Shuswap Regional District volunteers Gerry Kendall, Judith Hutchins and Janice Fisher are in Vanderhoof helping Emergency Social Services take care of people who have been displaced by wildfires. (Photo contributed)

Salmon Arm, regional district send firefighters north

Crews receive accolades for their work with BC Wildfire Service

When the call for help went out, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District and the City of Salmon Arm responded.

Firefighters from both organizations headed north to help fight wildfires.

“Provincial resources are stretched to the max and all fire departments around the province were asked if they could assist,” says CSRD Assistant Fire Chief Sean Coubrough of the province’s request for mutual aid. “We had sent out emails to fire chiefs to let us know who would be available and the response was phenomenal.”

Related: B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

The first team to be deployed to Dease Lake was a Celista wild-land truck with Anglemont firefighter Ken Fraser, along with Colton Barker and Sam Poffinbarger from the Scotch Creek/Lee Creek.

Another wild-land truck, with a crew consisting of Shuswap Fire Department Chief Gary Hoult, Ranchero firefighter Darnell Krusel and Nicholson’s Richard Hamre, was deployed to the same area last Thursday.

Firefighters, including Scotch Creek Fire Chief Mike Engholm, Anglemont firefighter Mike Sanderson and Adam Perry from Celista, left last Saturday to replace the first team.

Coubrough says the wild-land trucks his teams are using are smaller Ford F550s with four-wheel-drive capabilities that allow them to maneuver well in the backcountry.

“My understanding is they have a number of responsibilities – putting out hots spots and spot fires, laying down a wet guard and any other task as a front-line firefighter assisting BC Wildfire,” he adds. “They are working long hours, in some cases 20 hours a day, sometimes in really difficult conditions. But the crews are very proud to be able to assist.”

Related: B.C. wildfires 2018: Fire crews battle blazes across the region

A CSRD volunteer Emergency Social Services team is in Vanderhoof supporting local emergency social service efforts. Gerry Kendall is acting reception centre manager and Judith Hutchins and Janice Fisher are working on documentation.

Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley says a water tender and two firefighters, Mike Picul and Steven MacDonald from Hall 2, were deployed to the Burns Lake area on Aug. 12 to operate one of the Shuswap Emergency Program’s structural protection units.

They have since been relieved by another team of two from Hall 2 – Tyler Stevenson and Carmen Guidos.

“They’ve been in numerous places,” says Shirley. “They were staying at Takysie Lake Lodge and protecting it, but the fire was too aggressive and they had to be evacuated.”

“When we get a call, we basically have a truck designated, people on standby and equipment bags with all necessities ready to go,” says Shirley, noting a list of resources is developed well in advance. “We got a call Aug. 11 and the crew was on the way the next day at 6 a.m.”

Shirley is proud to share an email he received from Paul Hurst, View Royal incident commander, with a subject line that reads: “We saved a lot today.”

“Thought you’d enjoy: your firefighters have been exceptional to have under my command – competent and super *&%$ing dialed in. They saved this house today when the head of the fire ripped into town,” he writes. “It was the real deal today and they stood the line. Very proud of them! With great respect, thanks for sending good people.”

Shirley says he’s happy his department can help out in other areas of the province.

“We’re cautious about sending too many resources because we have to protect our own community,” he says. “But we’re comfortable with what we’ve sent and we know if we ever need assistance, they’d come from far and wide.”


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

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Firefighters Colton Barker (Scotch Creek / Lee Creek), team leader Ken Fraser (Anglemont) and Sam Poffinbarger (Scotch Creek / Lee Creek) were the first CSRD team to respond to a request for aid from the BC Wildfire Service at Dease Lake. (Image contributed)

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