NEWS RELEASE · 28th May 2010
Ministry of Forest and Range
British Columbia is sending three aircraft and 139 wildfire professionals to Quebec and Alaska to respond to increased wildfire activity, Forests and Range Minister Pat Bell announced today.
"Cooler conditions here allow us to share our highly trained personnel with agencies facing challenging fire situations," said Bell. "While our crews are busy fighting fires elsewhere, it is critical that the public remain cautious and vigilant with campfires here at home."
The Wildfire Management Branch will be deploying 130 wildfire personnel to the Val D'Or area of Quebec, to help manage a challenging fire situation. Quebec has 15 fires listed as out of control, and six fires over 1,000 hectares. Six 20-person unit crews, six task force leaders and four agency representatives will leave B.C. on Saturday, May 29. The sustained-action unit crews will be deployed to help contain large fires, while the task force leaders will help direct crews and establish fire management targets.
The sustained action crews are being deployed from each of British Columbia's six fire centres. Task force leaders come from each fire centre, while the agency representatives, who act as the link between deployed crews and the B.C. Wildfire Management Branch, are from the Southeast, Cariboo, Northwest and Kamloops fire centres. Costs for the deployment will be covered by the Government of Quebec under the Mutual Aid Resources Sharing Agreement, which allows for the sharing of firefighting resources across Canada. Personnel will be deployed for up to 19 days.
Alaska is experiencing hot, dry weather, with an anticipated increase in lightning-caused wildfires. Two three-person rappel crews and a helicopter with a pilot and engineer will arrive in Alaska today and will be deployed for up to 14 days. Rappel firefighters are highly trained initial-attack crews who rappel from a specially equipped helicopter to fight small or new fires in inaccessible terrain. The personnel and helicopter are from Salmon Arm.
The Wildfire Management Branch is also deploying an aerial attack group to Alaska's Department of Natural Resources. The group includes one airtanker, which drops fire retardant to support ground crews working to contain fires, one birddog aircraft to guide the airtanker and one air attack officer, who determines aerial firefighting tactics.
Costs for the deployment are covered by the Government of Alaska under the Northwest Compact, which allows for short-term, mutual-resource sharing between western provinces and neighbouring U.S. states.
Sufficient crews and equipment will remain in B.C. should fire activity increase here. The Wildfire Management Branch maintains sufficient firefighting capacity to respond to current conditions in B.C. Deployed personnel can be recalled at any time.
These are the second and third deployments of British Columbia fire crews this year. Eighty-one initial attack firefighters and three agency representatives are currently deployed to Ontario.
The public reports nearly half of all wildfires in B.C. Please continue to report smoke and flames by calling *5555 on mobile phones or 1-800 663-5555.