Skip to content

Locals head to Interior to fight Keremeos Creek wildfire

Halfmoon Bay Volunteer Fire Department chief Ryan Daley and assistant chief Tom Wayte along with the department's most recent equipment addition, a tender truck specifically built to operate in the wildland urban interface environment, left the Coast mid-day July 31.
Halfmoon Bay Volunteer Fire Department chief Daley and assistant chief Wayte, and one piece of firefighting apparatus have been dispatched to a B.C. wildfire basecamp near Penticton. Photo courtesy of the SCRD.

Two firefighters and one firetruck from the Coast have been deployed to a BC Wildfire base camp in Penticton to assist with the Keremeos Creek wildfire.

The service’s website stated that fire, discovered on July 29, was estimated at over 5,900 hectares as of 2 p.m. on Aug. 5.

Gibsons fire chief, and spokesperson for the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) emergency services department, Rob Michael spoke with Coast Reporter about the deployment. He said that Halfmoon Bay Volunteer Fire Department chief Ryan Daley and assistant chief Tom Wayte along with the department's most recent equipment addition – a tender truck specifically built to operate in the wildland-urban interface environment – left the Coast mid-day July 31. They arrived at the camp just before midnight that night.

How local departments help BC Wildfire Service

“When local resources are overwhelmed, the BC Wildfire Service can request assistance from fire departments throughout the province. The SCRD has been in the position to support the request and deploy assets in 2003, 2017, 2018, 2021 and now in 2022….Deployed crews do tactical patrols, assist with structure protection, triage, and conduct fire smart activities on homes. In worst-case scenarios, crews will utilize structure defence strategies if a wildfire does move through a populated area,” Michael said.

Michael knows what those individuals are up against. He was deployed in 2021 to a task force leader’s role on the White Rock Lake fire near Vernon. When asked about the experience, he said, “I got a tremendous amount out of it. When we are sending resources away it is about the return to our own community, the feeling that we are better suited and qualified to protect our own community from similar events. And if we make a phone call requesting assistance for our area, we really hope that someone is going to pick up.”

He explained that individuals can be assigned for as long as 14 days but that apparatus can be requested to stay on site for longer. Michael anticipated that there will be a crew change if the added personnel are needed at the fire for more than 10 more days. If an additional rotation of firefighters attends from the Coast, he said they could be recruited from any of the Coast’s departments but would likely be from the Halfmoon Bay department.

“There is a tremendous amount of interest from many local fire department members to get out there and assist in these major provincial events… It does take a toll on lives and families… members have missed children’s birthday parties and had to rely on others at work to pick up some slack while they are away. There are some very cooperative and understanding employers here as they do day to day when members have to drop everything to answer local fire calls.”

To ensure local fire protection needs are met when resources are sent off-Coast, Michael said fire departments on the Coast utilize a mutual aid agreement. “Local fire chiefs ensure a sufficient number of resources remain available to address any events that may occur locally… The chiefs work collaboratively to ensure we are communicating which assets are out and which remain available.”

The departments are compensated by the province for the use of equipment. They can also recover the costs of compensation they provide to members who are assigned to work with the Wildfire Service as it is outside of their normal duties as volunteer firefighters. Michael said that Coast fire departments have undertaken significant wildland preparation training over the last couple of years, including a wildfire scenario this spring. He remarked that those have “proved to be very helpful in preparing for those deployments."

A call to all

What can you do to help protect our area from wildfires? Michael said “local residents can assist by respecting the campfire ban and reporting smoke or fires by calling 911. Coast residents can also contact the SCRD Fire Smart team to have a free Fire Smart home assessment of their property.”

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks