Firefighters from across B.C. got some boots on the ground wildfire training up Campbell Mountain in Penticton Sunday.
Around 50 firefighters from as close as Naramata to as far as Quesnel and Victoria got some hands on pick axe firefighting experience at a hot site that included burning logs and grassy terrain. Water bucket helicopter demonstrations were also part of the day, showing the accuracy of their water drops on the fire target.
Kieren Simpson, who worked on last summer’s fires with BC Wildfire was representing Penticton Fire department on Sunday.
“We had some good conditions today and it worked out really well, putting some water on the fires and being on the ground here,” said Simpson.
Andri Chalabi, incident commander with B.C. Wildfire Service said teaching wildfire techniques to municipal firefigthters has great value.
“This weekend is to train structure firefighters about the wild-land environment,” said Chalabi.
“We have gone a long way from the early days and we are now integrating and becoming more efficient and safer,” he said. “The boots on the ground training is truly the fundamentals of wildfire firefighting and techniques.We are hoping they can take these techniques and share that with their home base. We are also developing leadership positions so they can support us when the need arises,” he said.
Working together and creating a camaraderie was also a theme of this year’s symposium that saw 300 firefighters in Penticton.
The Penticton Fire Department has hosted this symposium in 2018 and 2019 but has not been able to return to a full scale event until this year. Among some of the main organizers of the weekend was Brittany Seibert, Penticton’s new emergency operations coordinator.
Saturday was a day filled with learning opportunities, starting in classrooms at the Lakeside Resort, where crews were provided with tools and resources to operate effectively and safely ahead of the anticipated wildfire season.
For some on Saturday, it was about building relationships with their fellow firefighters — an aspect of the job described as “crucial” by Kurtis Isfeld, the deputy director of provincial operations at BC Wildfire Service.
Predictions for fire season 2022?
No one at the B.C. wildfire training symposium would try to predict what this summer will bring or whether it will be as bad as last summer. But they could predict that they are ready for whatever it brings.
“So far it has been a cooler spring and the snowpack is stable. May and June dictate how it is going to go and how much rain we get then,” said Chalabi.
Chalabi showed that underneath new growth, the soil is still cool. Another indicator that things are still cool, is pine needles aren’t snapping yet from being dry. These are good indicators we won’t have an early wildfire season, he said.
BC Wildfire firefighters work hacking at the ground on fire with axes and metal rakes is back breaking, but firefighters do get trained on how to properly do it to save them from fatigue and injury, said Chalabi.
A day in the life of a wildlife firefighter might mean working 12 hours or 15 depending on how dangerous the fire is and how close it is to structures.
Even though it’s physically difficult work, wildfire fighters told the Western News they love what they do.
Summer of 2021 BC Wildfire Services fought over 300 fires over two months across the Interior.
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