Wildfire crews in the South Cariboo will have a little extra help available after 20 local men and women took part in basic fire training in 100 Mile House this week.
The courses – S-100 Fire Suppression and S-185 Fire Entrapment Avoidance and Safety – were sponsored by Horton Ventures and offered free of charge for up to 20 participants, who will be eligible to start working in the bush immediately after completing the two-day program.
Horton Ventures owners Anny and Gordon Horton had the idea a few weeks ago to offer something locally after seeing social media posts indicating there was a keen interest and need for training.
“We thought, what can we do to help right now?” Anny said. “Let’s find somebody to come down and do the course.”
Anny said the 20 spots filled up within a few hours, and she currently has a waitlist of at least another 20 interested participants. The Horton’s company covered the cost of the course – close to $8,000 – as well as classroom time and accommodation for the instructor, Roy Bernhardt from Lifesavers First Aid Training Ltd. in Prince George. The District of 100 Mile House offered the use of its Emergency Training Centre on Exeter Road for the practical component of the course.
While the material is condensed over the two-day program, Bernhardt said it’s a good overview of the basics, including the different types of fuels, fire behaviours, hose rolling and learning to operate and respect the pumps, as well as hose-laying techniques and tandem and relay pumping.
“With my experience, you learn the basics here,” said Bernhardt, who’s been teaching these types of course for 22 years.
“You get to play with this different equipment and become familiar with it, then you get out to a fire and you’ll learn out there.”
Mikayla Glen, who has been working at the fire camp in town doing food prep, has never taken any firefighting training but decided to sign up when she saw the course advertised.
“It seemed pretty interesting, and it’s a good way to help out my community,” Glen said.
Brandon Plewes took the course as a refresher – he has worked in various capacities of firefighting in the past – and said he signed up a few of the guys on his crew so they could pitch in with the firefighting efforts as well.
His company, Cariboo Cord King, works in wildfire fuel management during the winter months and Plewes said the extra training for both him and his crew would be beneficial during fire-related work stoppages.
“We do the same thing in the winter, except we don’t have the threat of forest fire,” said Plewes, who is on the hunt for a few new employees. “It’s about keeping the community safe, and making sure that we can stay working when everything else is shut down.”
With a long list of interested locals who didn’t make it into this course, Anny said she’s hopeful that other businesses in the community might step up to help sponsor another offering this summer.
“We could make this work again in a week or two if we had another sponsor, or if other employers wanted to donate,” she said.
“It’s worth the money, it’s an immediate effect on our community. They’ll be out there working on these fires right away.”