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Northwest firefighters deployed to eastern Canada

They will help with fire suppression efforts in Ontario and Quebec.
Firefighters work hard to contain the 545-hectare wildfire at East Shuswap Road. Twitter/BC Wildfire Service photo

A total of 23 firefighters from the Northwest Fire Centre were deployed to Ontario and Quebec last week to help with firefighting efforts in those provinces.

Parts of eastern Canada have been dealing with an unusually brutal wildfire season this summer.

The northeastern Ontario community of Temagami has been put on evacuation alert, while other residents around the region have been already been forced out of their homes after lighting-caused fires blew up faster than expected. Another 60 or so active fires were burning across Quebec last week.

One initial attack crew made up of three firefighters was deployed on July 9 to Ontario, while a unit crew made up of 20 firefighters was deployed on July 11 to Quebec.

According to Kyla Fraser, fire information officer for the B.C. Wildfire Service, the agency cannot specify which communities these firefighters were deployed from due to privacy concerns. The firefighters can be deployed for a maximum of 19 days; however, they can be recalled at any time.

The B.C. Wildfire Service said it was confident B.C. had enough resources to deal with its current wildfires.

Smithers fire chief Keith Stacko said last week the town’s fire department is available but hasn’t been requested by the Province for deployment.

Telkwa fire chief Laurence Turney said his department is available to be deployed but it hasn’t been called on yet.

Last week fire information officer Carolyn Bartos said the Northwest Fire Centre was not expecting a lot of wildfire activity due to recent precipitation throughout the region.

“However, we are going into a drying trend and will be preparing for a higher level of activity due to the warmer weather coming our way into next week,” she said last Thursday. “We maintain our levels of preparedness by studying forecasts which will give us a good idea of what to expect in the short term.”

The Northwest Fire Centre had a total of 56 wildfires to date, as of last Thursday. This compares with 32 wildfires during the same period last year.

The Province wanted to help Ontario and Quebec because of the “invaluable assistance” they offered last year, according to the B.C. Wildfire Service, when more than a million hectares of forest burned across B.C. in its worst wildfire season on record.

READ MORE: 2017 now worst wildfire season in B.C.

The Province sent a total of 204 firefighting personnel to eastern Canada last week. When they arrive, the B.C. personnel will be deployed as needed in each province to assist with the firefighting situation.

Initial attack firefighters are usually the first on scene of a new wildfire. Once there, the initial attack crew works quickly to set up water pumps, remove fuel from the fire’s path and dig fireguards to help control or extinguish the blaze.

Unit crews typically work on large fires, and can remain self-sufficient in the field for up to 72 hours at a time. Crew members receive extensive training and are knowledgeable about wildfire behaviour, fire management tactics and fireline equipment use.

The request for assistance was made through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which co-ordinates the mutual sharing of firefighting resources between B.C. and other jurisdictions.

All associated costs will be covered by the jurisdiction that requested the resources.

With files from Michael Grace-Dacosta