As of Tuesday, 437 wildfire personnel are working to contain the Keremeos Creek wildfire, but between battling the fire, crews are calling the Oliver, B.C., airport home.
The makeshift camp was set up last week as a centralized location for all crew members.
“It’s rustic living. It’s living out of a camp,” said BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) information officer Mikhail Elsay.
“The airport is helpful for us because it’s plugged into the city sewer and city water line so we actually have access to water, which is a huge factor, and power as well. When we’re in the rural sites, it’s a struggle to get the basic amenities to the site but being at the airport here, it’s attached.”
Alongside several pitched tents, the base includes laundry and kitchen facilities, wash cars for bathrooms and showers, extra gear as well as office trailers for the incident management team.
“Our logistics people are also doing incredible work being able to set this up in a very short amount of time, and also making sure that we have everything that we need to handle this fire,” said Elsay.
The camp is a busy area with crew members resting, coming and going alongside helicopters and heavy machinery.
Day shift firefighters generally wake up between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., then eat their breakfast before heading out to the fire until late at night.
Meanwhile, night shift firefighters have been provided a space inside one of the airport hangars as a cooler space to sleep during the day.
As of Monday, 256 wildland firefighters and 157 structural protection personal were assigned to the Keremeos Creek wildfire and the camp is almost at capacity.
“If we were to bring even more firefighters in we would just need to bring in more stuff. So that would just be more bathrooms, more wash cars and increase our ability to cook more food to this area,” said Elsay.
Once crews pack up, BC Wildfire Service says they want to leave little to no long-term impacts where the base is situated, which is why commercial facilities like the airport are ideal.
“If we were to be using fields that are also used for industry, ranching, farming, the ground is beat up and so there are lasting impacts,” Elsay.
BC Wildfire Service and the Town of Oliver are asking that the public stay away from the camp. This includes the area between Airport Street and Road 2.
BC Wildfire is asking that traffic in this area be for essential use only.