They have played an instrumental role in the Okanagan’s 2017 flood fight. But the majority of firefighters with the B.C Wildfire Service have now left to fight wildfires burning in a number of communities throughout the province.
“To have an extra 160 people right in the midst of the peak of the flood, that was a huge help,” Jodie Foster with the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations Centre said. “We really are wishing them well as they head off to now fight fires for the summer.”
Firefighters from all over B.C. rushed to aid in the flood fight back in May. They filled sandbags, built protective barriers and even cleaned up flood-damaged neighborhoods.
“We are so grateful,” Kelowna resident and flood victim Marilyn Strong said. “They are our heroes.”
Jesse Bird is one of the remaining B.C. Wildfire Service personnel left in the Okanagan. But as of Thursday, he, along with his few remaining colleagues, will be packed up and gone.
“It’s been one of those years where a lot of catastrophes have happened. Kelowna has felt this a lot this year between the floods, they had fires last year,” Bird said.
Bird has been with the B.C. Wildfire Service for several years and says this year is unusual in how quickly crews went from the flood zone to the fire zone.
“It has been a very quick transition,” Bird said. “I have not seen this in my six years.”
Sandbag removal is expected to last well into August. The cleanup will now be done by contractors and property owners themselves.
There are a number of sandbag drop-off locations around the central Okanagan for those wishing to do the cleanup themselves.
Those who need help with sandbag removal can register at the Central Okanagan Regional District website.