Smoke fills the sky as a wildfire burns near 100 Mile House. Carmen Guidos photo

Campbell River unable to send firefighters to assist with the wildfires

“We just don’t have the resources to safely let people go elsewhere.”

The Campbell River Fire Department will not be sending a team to assist in fighting the wildfires in the Interior.

“Looking at our numbers and our ability to get people out to fires and our apparatus totals too, (we) realized that we just don’t have the resources to safely let people go elsewhere,” said Ian Baikie, fire chief.

Baikie said he spent the day Monday looking at the numbers and trying to make room to let a team of four or five go off Island with a vehicle.

“But we know the numbers of people that we need for our fires,” he said. “We looked at our fires for this year to date and looking at our average response going ‘huh, we wouldn’t want four or five of those people not around’.”

In 2003 it was a different story and Campbell River sent a team to help with the fires in the Okanagan, but this year the situation is different, especially because of the dry conditions around here.

“From a wildland fire point of view this is so early and it doesn’t bode well for August and that’s a bit of a sobering thought,” Baikie said.

Nearby fire departments have been contacted about or have responded to calls for assistance.

Comox Fire Chief Gord Schreiner is assisting with the co-ordination of structural protection.

Schreiner was deployed by the Office of the Fire Commissioner (OFC) Saturday to assist with protection in Williams Lake and 150 Mile House.

“I expect to be here … for the next days,” he said via email. “The Comox Structure Protection trailer has been put on standby by the OFC and could be deployed later today if requested.”

He noted days assisting with the wildfires have been long, and included a 15-hour day Sunday, and added fire conditions are changing from better to worse, “and back again.”

He is also co-ordinating sprinkler trailers, engines and tenders across the province.

Courtenay Fire Department deputy chief Kurt MacDonald said the department has been contacted by the province to inquire about resources, but no formal request has been made – yet.

“I’m going to talk with our CAO to give him the update. We could be required but we’re far down the line – perhaps a bit later in the game. We have to sit down with our members and see who might be available. We are volunteer so there’s a lot of moving parts.”

In 2003, the department did send firefighters and resources to assist with the wildfires in Kelowna which burned more than 25,000 HA, but MacDonald noted the first priority is the protection of the City of Courtenay prior to sending resources to the rest of the province.

“We have to make sure our community is safe.”

Oyster River Fire Department chief Bruce Green said he has been contacted by the province and is on standby, as the department also has a Structural Protection Unit.

– With files from Erin Haluschak/Comox Valley Record