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During the summer of 2022, more than 40,000 hectares of forest has burned in British Columbia, with approximately 1,200 firefighters battling wildfires, working 12-to-14-hour days.
Elora van Jarrett leads a 20-person crew, the Port Alberni Thunderbirds, that has been fighting a fire of more than 7,000 hectares in Keremeos.
“It certainly had its challenges, a lot of the fire line was down in the community there, but by the time I got there, it had worked its way up onto the mountainside and that’s a lot of work, but it seems a lot more achievable and less stressful when you’re not right up against people’s homes,” van Jarrett said, noting approximately 40 per cent of forest fires are human-caused.
“A fire can move incredibly fast, aircraft can’t do anything when a fire has gained a ton of momentum and is burning what we call at rank six, the highest fire behaviour that we have on our ranking scale. If it’s burning at that intensity, there’s essentially nothing that we can do at that point,” van Jarrett said.
The veteran of 15 firefighting seasons said: “Fighting fires in B.C. is rewarding in so many ways, it’s physically demanding, yes, but that feels like a great achievement, the best feeling is when you just worked so hard and put it all out on the line, and you come out at the end of the day just feeling invigorated but exhausted, that’s my favourite day.”
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