Fraser Valley fire departments form ‘strike teams’ to combat wildfires

Boston Bar, Chilliwack River Valley and Popkum departments form strike teams to fight wildfires

Boston Bar and Chilliwack River Valley fire departments are stepping into the fight against B.C. wildfires, manning their fire halls with strike teams during peak fire times.

Crews of three people will be stationed at the Boston Bar/North Bend Volunteer Fire Department and the Chilliwack River Valley Volunteer Fire Department during the day, with Popkum firefighters assisting Boston Bar to fill their spaces. The ‘strike teams’, as the three-person crews are called, were a request from the BC Wildfire Service and will be in place until at least Monday.

“These are both volunteer fire departments, unmanned during the day, so their members respond from work or home, or wherever that may be,” said Reg Dyck, manager of emergency services for the Fraser Valley Regional District.

“Having people at the hall, ready to go at a moments notice, it just provides that extra time that can make the difference between seeing the fire spread or maybe knocking down something quite quickly.”

The crews are stationed at the halls from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., the hottest time of day when temperatures are high and humidity low. During these times fires are more aggressive said Dyck, who spent 25 years as a volunteer firefighter, fire chief and trainer. In the morning before 10 a.m. and in the evenings until 10 p.m., firefighters have to be within a thirty minute response time.

The strike teams are made up of firefighters who have gone through wildland fire training, as well as being physically ready for the “not very pleasant work” which could await them if fire strikes.

“All our firefighters, it’s incredible work they’re doing. It’s very, very difficult work,” Dyck said.

The Chilliwack River Valley has two small wildfires burning near Slesse Park — one .25 hectares and the other .01 hectares. Boston Bar has had small wildfires start in the community this summer, none are currently burning.

The number of human-caused fires across the province is unacceptable, said Jason Lum, Chilliwack councillor and FVRD board chair. He implored people to be smart when going out into the natural environment this weekend.

“We’ve got tinder-dry conditions across the regions, we’ve got fire bans across the region, so we’re really just asking people to be very fire smart, obey all the fire bans that are out there. For smokers who are out there, do not flick your cigarette butts out your window,” he said.

“These volunteers working basically around the clock, these strike teams working 14-hour shifts — it’s not just them, it’s their families. It’s all the things they’re giving up to keep us fire safe.”

BC Wildfire are reassessing the need for these strike teams twice a week, looking at the fire conditions and weather.


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