With wildfire activity flaring up across the B.C. interior, the BC Wildfire Service has recalled 204 firefighters on loan to Ontario and Quebec.
The crews were deployed through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre to the eastern provinces in several waves earlier this month.
Sixty of the firefighters are currently helping in Ontario, while 140 are assisting in Quebec.
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“We had originally intended on replacing those crews so that we could continue supporting Ontario and Quebec, but obviously the situation in B.C. has changed a little bit, we’re seeing more activity now, so we are going to be bringing those crews back early,” said chief wildfire information officer Kevin Skrepnek.
“We anticipate that they’ll all be in province by early to midway through next week, and we won’t be replacing them, unfortunately, given that we need to hold onto our resources now.”
Skrepnek said the recalled crews will be given a period of rest, then deployed to the front lines.
According to the BC Wildfire Service, crews can be deployed to another province for a period of up to 19 days, but can be recalled at any point.
Skrepnek said B.C. was happy to help its eastern neighbours, given how much assistance the province had received from other jurisdictions in the past.
“That exchange of resources is a key part of wildfire fighting around the world,” he said.
“No agency can be staffed up to its highest level of need. We had almost 5,000 people working in B.C. at our peak last summer.”
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The teams sent out-of-province include both Initial Attack Crews and Unit Crews.
Initial Attack Crews are three-person teams that are first on the scene of a wildfire who set up water pumps, clear potential fuel sources and dig fire guards.
Unit Crews are 20-person teams that work on larger fires and can remain self-sufficient for up to three days.
Out-of-province firefighters have frequently helped their B.C. counterparts during peak wildfire season.
Last year, crews from every province and territory in Canada, save Nunavut, joined firefighters from the United States, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand in helping B.C. tackle its worst-ever wildfire season.