Advertisement

More than 300 B.C. firefighters in Oregon, California helping battle wildfires

In this Monday, Sept. 14, 2020, file photo, two firefighters can be seen as the North Complex Fire burns in Plumas National Forest, Calif. The Associated Press

Wildfire season may be winding down in B.C., but more than 300 firefighters are still busy helping battle fires in the United States.

Last month, the BC Wildfire Service sent 207 firefighters to Oregon on Sept. 17 to help battle extreme wildfires there.

One week later, on Sept. 25, another 143 were sent across the border, this time to Quincy, Calif., to help fight fires in the Golden State.

Read more: Unseasonably hot, dry weather conditions stoke devastating California wildfires

A small town with a population of just under 2,000 nestled along the Sierra Nevada mountains, Quincy is located in northern California, about three hours north of Sacramento and a 90-minute drive northwest of Reno.

It’s also near the North Complex fire, a massive blaze that’s around 315,000 acres (127,475 hectares), but was 79 per cent contained as of Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

Still, the North Complex fire has been called the fifth largest fire in the state’s modern history.

For comparison, some of the largest fires in B.C. this year were the Christie Mountain wildfire in the South Okanagan at 2,122.50 hectares (5,244 acres) and the Doctor Creek wildfire (7,645 hectares / 18,891 acres) in the Kootenays.

Click to play video 'West Coast wildfires: Time-lapse video captures growth of Glass Fire' West Coast wildfires: Time-lapse video captures growth of Glass Fire
West Coast wildfires: Time-lapse video captures growth of Glass Fire – Sep 30, 2020

A BC Wildfire spokesperson, Forrest Tower, said updates are being sent daily as to how the B.C. crews are doing.

“They are working in isolation, not alongside American crews,” Tower told Global News on Thursday. “But they do get their directives from American supervisors, then carry out their work.”

Tower said the work they’re doing is similar to what they’d be doing in B.C. — handguards, working perimeters and dousing hot spots — but on larger scales.

Story continues below advertisement

He also said it appears the fires in central Oregon are becoming more contained, but that the North Complex fire is still active.

Click to play video 'California wildfires: Blazes leave trail of destruction in California’s wine country' California wildfires: Blazes leave trail of destruction in California’s wine country
California wildfires: Blazes leave trail of destruction in California’s wine country – Sep 30, 2020

How long the firefighters will stay stateside isn’t yet known. Forrest says crews work up to 19 days, then must take time off. He said crews could take their days off in the U.S., then return to work, or they could return home.

As of Thursday in B.C., there were no wildfires of note, and there were just 16 active fires throughout the province.

The extra work they’re receiving south of the border will, certainly, come in handy for B.C.’s next wildfire season.

Click to play video 'West Coast wildfires: ‘Baby Yoda’ helps lift spirits of firefighters' West Coast wildfires: ‘Baby Yoda’ helps lift spirits of firefighters
West Coast wildfires: ‘Baby Yoda’ helps lift spirits of firefighters – Sep 29, 2020

“Even going into Oregon, where there are some similar (fire) fuel types, it’s still a different situation,” said Tower. “And then California, it’s a whole new world, with completely different fuel types in some areas, depending on where you’re working.

Story continues below advertisement

“So it is good exposure and good practice for our crews to have exposure to how Americans handle things. It’s always good for that cross-training variance, so there’s a lot of benefits other than purely assisting our neighbours in times of need.”

Click to play video 'California wildfires: Thousands evacuated as Glass Fire incinerates over 100 homes' California wildfires: Thousands evacuated as Glass Fire incinerates over 100 homes
California wildfires: Thousands evacuated as Glass Fire incinerates over 100 homes – Sep 29, 2020