Sooke firefighter Brandon Knowles (left to right), Metchosin Lt. Gord Grivel, Sooke firefighter Rod Davis and Langford firefighter Keith Detlor arrived in Fort St. James earlier this week to help battle the wildfires. (Langford Fire Rescue photo)

West Shore firefighters answer call to battle fires in north-central B.C.

Crews to help with structural fire protection in Fort St. James

Fire crews from the West Shore are currently helping to battle a number of wildfires that are raging in north-central B.C.

Langford firefighter Keith Detlor, Metchosin Lt. Gord Grivel, as well as Sooke firefighers Rod Davis and Brandon Knowles, along with one of Sooke’s fire engines, arrived in Fort St. James earlier this week, where the Shovel Lake fire has grown to more than 50,0000 hectares in size. The fire is the largest in B.C. burning northeast of Burns Lake and southwest of Fort St. James, where close to 1,600 residents were on evacuation alert, as of Wednesday afternoon.

They’re not the only ones that have answered the call to help. Metchosin Fire Chief Stephanie Dunlop is manning a command post in Fort St. James, while View Royal Fire Chief Paul Hurst is part of the Office of the Fire Commissioner’s management staff that is dealing with seven different fires from a command post near Verdun Mountain, located roughly 17 kilometres southwest of Grassy Plains.

“It’s just what firefighters do, they want to help out and they see a need and they have the skills. They want to see if they can help make a difference and it doesn’t matter if it’s at home or abroad,” Langford Fire Chief Chris Aubrey said.

“Whatever we can do to help out, because we know they’ll do the same for us.”

Sooke Fire Rescue received the initial call for help from the Office of the Fire Commissioner Tuesday morning and within hours, a contingent volunteered to pack up, take a ferry over to Vancouver, before embarking on the roughly 13-hour drive to Fort St. James.

View Royal Fire Rescue will also be sending a truck, along with three firefigthers and one from North Saanich, who will leave Friday morning to help in the Echo Lake area.

View Royal fire Insp. Geoff Pitre left Monday morning to serve as a task force leader for the Takysie fire as well.

According to Aubrey, the West Shore team will spend roughly a week in Fort St. James, where they’ll help with structural fire protection. Firefighters will help extinguish any fires that start around structures, out buildings or homes and conduct town patrols in the evening.

RELATED: B.C. declares state of emergency as more than 560 wildfires rage

On Wednesday, the province declared a state of emergency as more than 500 wildfires burned across B.C. The wildfires have sparked 29 evacuation orders affecting more than 3,000 people, as well as 48 evacuation alerts affecting almost 19,000 people.

“If you look at the map right now, it looks like most of the province is on fire. I can’t recall a time where we’ve had 30 plus fires active on the Island at any given point in time. At some point, we’re going to need some help,” said Aubrey about the importance of helping other fire departments across the province in a time of need.

“If we have the resources available. We want to be able to go there … I’m really proud of not just our department, but all the fire departments in the southern Island area who have got people who are volunteering to go out there and to help out people they’ve never met in communities they haven’t been to before.”

Aubrey noted Langford Emergency Social Service is also on standby to help open reception centres and group lodging should people be evacuated from their homes.

Last summer, several firefighters from the Langford, Metchosin, View Royal and Sooke fire departments also helped battle wildfires in the central and southern Interior.


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kendra.wong@goldstreamgazette.com

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