4 B.C. wildland firefighters killed in head-on crash near Cache Creek

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4 wildland firefighters killed in crash
While returning home from fighting a wildfire, four contract firefighters have died in a motor vehicle collision. Julia Foy reports – Sep 21, 2023

Four members of a BC Wildfire crew died Tuesday in a head-on crash on their way home from a job site, RCMP say.

The crash between a Ford F-350 and a semi-tractor trailer happened at 2 a.m. around one kilometre west of Juniper Beach Provincial Park on Highway 1, near Walhachin, B.C., RCMP said.

“Tragically, the four individuals have been identified as BC Wildfire Service sub-contractors who were traveling home from assisting with fire suppression efforts,” Cpl. James Grandy, spokesperson for the BC RCMP Southeast District.

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RCMP investigators said their investigation indicates the fire crew’s pick-up truck failed to navigate a bend in the road, crossing the centre line and colliding with the semi truck head-on. By the time police arrived, the semi-tractor trailer was engulfed in flames, but the driver managed to escape.

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“This year has been particularly challenging for the BC Wildfire Service, with several of its members facing injuries or losing their lives,” Grandy said. “Our thoughts are with the friends and families of those who help keep our province safe.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the tragedy while speaking at the U.N. Climate Summit in New York.

“Our thoughts are with their loved ones and their teams,” he said.

Premier David Eby and Bruce Ralston, Minister of Forests, released a  statement in response to the deaths of the contracted wildfire fighters who were driving home after assisting with response efforts near Vanderhoof.

A map showing the approximate location of the fatal head-on crash, which occurred between Kamloops and Cache Creek. Google Maps

“Our hearts are broken by news of the death of four wildfire fighters who were travelling home after a tour of duty and were in a motor vehicle accident near Cache Creek. Our thoughts are with the family, friends and colleagues grieving the loss of these brave individuals,” reads the statement.

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“This is devastating news in what has been an immensely difficult wildfire season. We stand with wildfire fighters and all BC Wildfire Service personnel as they mourn the death of colleagues and co-workers yet again.”

Highway 1 was closed in both directions for the investigation. It has since reopened.

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An investigation is currently underway to determine the cause of the collision. Assistance is provided by both the BC Coroner Service and BC Highway Patrol’s Collision Reconstructionist.

This year four Canadian firefighters have already died while fighting wildfires, two in B.C.

This year’s wildfires in Canada have burned the largest land area ever. Tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes and air quality was challenged in cities across the country.

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