B.C. forests ministry firefighters train on how to enter and exit from a hovering chopper Tuesday in Qualicum Beach.

Crews ready themselves for forest fire season

Be comfortable, follow the safety instructions and don’t be complacent.

Those are the three main rules to follow when entering and exiting a hovering helicopter, and part of the lessons learned by forest firefighters Tuesday afternoon at the Qualicum Beach airport.

Be comfortable, follow the safety instructions and don’t be complacent.

Those are the three main rules to follow when entering and exiting a hovering helicopter, and part of the lessons learned by forest firefighters Tuesday afternoon at the Qualicum Beach airport.

Forests ministry fire crews from the Coastal Fire region (Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast) were in Qualicum Beach for their annual hover training exercise. For newcomers to the ranks, some more nervous than others, and for veterans of the forest service, the course is part of their training and qualifies them to engage in  similar operations across the country and in the United States.

“We start with a power point presentation, which is where we go over, basically, what makes a helicopter fly,” said Julian Welp, a crew leader. “And safety, that’s the top of the list.”

Welp has performed a hover exit many times, he said, noting it comes into play when fighting fires in steep, mountainous terrain — places where a chopper cannot set down.

New forest firefighter Marc Albert, who works out of Powell River, said the training is an extension of his boot camp training and was a little nervous.

“I haven’t done it before, but I think it’ll be fine,” he said. “You have to follow certain safety precautions.”

After a safety briefing and mock exits from a helicopter on the ground, the crews moved to a grassy area of the airfield and did it live.

As the chopper hovered a few feet off the ground, firefighters exited and re-entered, making sure to stay low and not to get the helicopter off balance. Welp added there’s no way of telling when such skills would be put into use — but when the occasion does arise, the crews will be ready.

Donna MacPherson, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre in Parksville, said training like this takes place throughout the fire season, and among the crews across the Island and mainland coast. It’s this work, she said, that gets B.C. crews noticed.

“We’re recognized around the world,” she said of the firefighters’ prowess. “We’ve had international groups come here to train and learn what our teams  can do.”

She said since B.C. has so much public land to take care of, firefighters here get a lot of practice and real action. The fire season, MacPherson continued, has already started, with a small forest fire near Pemberton last weekend.

As of Monday at noon, she said, the Coastal Fire centre will implement a ban on all backyard fires. Check with local municipalities, she added, for local burning regulations.

Just Posted

La Familia gets Campbell River’s River City Arts Festival swaying to the music

Campbell River Arts Festival was treated to the sounds of Latin music… Continue reading

Disaster risk reduction course open to Campbell River high school students this fall

SRD protective services coordinator hopes program will eventually become integrated into curriculum

Large sections of Baikie Island Nature Reserve in Campbell River still in need of major attention

Greenways Land Trust has been looking for almost $1 million to address south side of conservancy

VIDEO: Break-in third this year at Indigenous art stores in Campbell River

Awatin Aboriginal Arts robbed for second time in 2019; Wei Wai Kum House of Treasures robbed in June

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Vancouver Island teens missing after vehicle found ablaze near Dease Lake, BC

RCMP say a body discovered nearby not one of the missing teens

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Most Read