Fire departments in the Peace region are keeping up their training this wildfire season, putting their fire smarts to the test in a mock scenario on Saturday.
Members from the Fort St. John, Taylor, and Charlie Lake departments, as well as the BC Wildfire Service met at the Tse'K'wa National Historic Site, better known as the Charlie Lake Cave, to practice the mock scenario.
The session was led by Mammoth Forestry, the wildfire consulting firm hired by the Peace River Regional District to launch its 2022 FireSmart campaign, while Tse’K’Wa Heritage Society volunteered the use of space for the firefighters to train.
Operation manager Craig Wilson says Mammoth has been teaming up with local departments over the summer for various training opportunities, with a previous session on wildfire suppression held with the Tomslake Fire Department in July.
As a former smokejumper and wildland firefighter, Wilson said it’s been a shift to focus on FireSmart practices, but sees the immense value in protecting homes and property.
“The only way to control these large-scale blazes which impact an entire community at one time is with FireSmart, managing the fuels ahead of time,” he said.
At Tse’K’wa, the scenario involved a mock wildfire threatening the building, with members tasked to track down pretend embers, represented by orange ping pong balls, and establishing a containment perimeter by hosing down the edges of the property with water.
“When you look at communities that are impacted by wildfire events, over the half the houses that burn down are just from that one ember that lands in a bad spot,” said Wilson.
He also commended the members on working together fluidly, despite being from different departments.
“When you’re relying on equipment, water, and human beings all functioning, there’s a lot variables that can go wrong,” said Wilson. “I had budgeted about an hour for water to be set up, but you were well under 30 minutes.”
Volunteers are being sought to host further training sessions, he added, with property owners in the region having already offered their homes to help the departments practice.
Tom Summer, Alaska Highway News, Local Journalism Initiative
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Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Alaska Highway News