Four volunteers from Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) volunteer fire departments hit the road on Saturday, July 24, to help fight wildfires in Interior B.C.
About 12 hours after they get the call, volunteer firefighters have to be ready to respond to the province’s request for help, Fire Chief Patrick Higgins of the Roberts Creek Volunteer Fire Department told Coast Reporter.
“All of the volunteers have their own lives, they’ve got family at home and they have jobs. This changes everything,” Higgins said. “Because as soon as a provincial state of emergency is declared, it basically puts us on alert that a deployment can be coming. So all of the members who put their name forward in the past can potentially be deployed.
“I commend any of the volunteers for putting their lives on hold to step forward and leave home to go do this work,” he said.
Roberts Creek Deputy Chief Sean Hatanaka and Lt. Russell Monkman, and Halfmoon Bay Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Kody Raymond and firefighter Kaiden DeRoon were deployed to Spences Bridge, north of Lytton, and put to work immediately to fight an active fire and make sure local livestock was fed, a press release from the SCRD said. They will be in the area for two weeks.
The fire engine they took with them is typically a reserve engine for the Roberts Creek department. Higgins said it was replaced by a new frontline engine in 2018, and usually is used to shuttle water or as an equipment truck for interface work. Since it was formerly the area’s frontline engine, Higgins said it was easy to reconfigure into an engine the BC Wildfire Service was looking for.
“Thankfully we are currently in a position where our local response needs can be met with personnel on the Coast, so these firefighters were able to deploy with one of our fire trucks,” Matt Treit, the SCRD manager of protective services, said in a press release. “They will gain invaluable experience in the coming weeks, which will benefit our training and response to wildfire situations on the Sunshine Coast.”
All costs, he said, will be covered through an emergency provincial fund.
Halfmoon Bay Fire Chief Ryan Daley said his department is happy to support Roberts Creek with the deployment of their engine.
“Since I don’t have any extra equipment to go, it’s really nice to be able to offer up manpower to make it possible for the Sunshine Coast Regional District and the fire departments to actually send these resources,” Daley said, adding they will continue to support Roberts Creek.
For local response on the Sunshine Coast, Higgins said there is a contingency plan in place. Deployments are coordinated between the fire departments and Treit, so everyone knows when equipment and personnel leave the area. Mutual and automatic aid agreements will come into play, which Higgins said has worked well on the Coast for years.
The four Sunshine Coast firefighters will wrap up their deployment on Aug. 3.
If their services are still requested, another set of volunteer firefighters from the Sunshine Coast will be deployed for a second rotation of two weeks.
It is a good time to think about the people who have been displaced because of wildfires in B.C., Higgins added.
The last time Higgins was deployed for provincial response was in 2018, he said, when the busy fire season also required trucks from Roberts Creek, Gibsons and Sechelt. Firefighters from Halfmoon Bay also responded that year.