Smithers Fire Rescue (SFR) will be well-prepared for the upcoming wildfire season thanks to a grant from the Wetzin’kwa Community Forest (WCFC).
Following the disastrous 2017 and 2018 seasons — during which the fire department was called on to assist with fire fighting efforts in a variety of affected local municipalities, regional districts, other communities, and areas in the northern and interior regions — the Smithers Volunteer Firefighters Association (SVFFA) identified gaps in equipment and training.
In 2019, they converted a rescue truck specifically for wildland/forest fire fighting and identified wildfire equipment and personal protective equipment needs.
The $XX,XXX 2020 contribution allowed the SVFFA to purchase that equipment and conduct wildfire specific training.
“It’s allowed us to increase our capability for protecting the people in the Bulkley Valley from wildfire incidents where traditionally we focus more on structural firefighting,” said Alle Jan de Vries, SFR assistant fire chief and training office.
“What we found with climate change is that we are now looking at different fire events and this just greatly increases are capabilities.”
Specifically, the organization purchased equipment for 11 firefighters including: wildland firefighting shirts, wildland firefighting pants hard hats with a front brim and wire screen face visor, earmuffs, commander dual radio chest harness, falling axes, wildland firefighting tools, wildland hose, wildland hose clamps, wildland pump kit, racoon search and rescue packs, fire line packs with first-aid modules and water bottle cases.
With the new equipment and structure protection unit, training began in the early fall last year and more is planned for the spring.
What we’ve been focussing on these past couple of years, but especially this last year with the extra equipment as well is doing some training… that allows us to protect structures ahead of a wildfire. If we can get our structural protection set up on these residences, it allows us to move away.
“What these setups do is kind of create a moisture bubble around these structures which then often means a wildfire event will move around the structure as opposed to burning it down.”
Training on structure protection techniques is scheduled for May 1 and 2. In June, Smithers firefighers will take the province’s Wildland Firefighter Level 1 program, which includes basic fire suppression and fire entrapment avoidance components.