Even though they aren’t officially a fire department, the volunteer McLeese Lake fire department is responding to fires.
“We’ve found out about the fires by seeing the smoke,” member Ian Hicks said.
At the recent Soda Creek wildfire, volunteers arrived first on the ground with two trucks and five firefighters.
They also responded to another fire two months ago on the new power line that goes to the Gibraltar Mine.
“Out of the blue one of my volunteers came down and told me we better go have a look,” Hicks said.
Jumping into a F350, they roared up the road and discovered dozens of little fires burning.
“There was an excavator fully engulfed in flames directly under the power line,” Hicks recalled, adding the first thing they did was call the Cariboo Fire Centre. “I’d like to think we stopped it from becoming a major forest fire. We were running up and down with our response truck putting out all these little fires.”
Hicks credited Gibraltar Mines who originally gave the department $10,000 in seed money which has allowed them to get two trucks on the road and put 14 volunteers through some training.
They’ve also fully relied on bottle refunds, earning $500 to $600 a month from the McLeese Lake volunteer fire department account at Amanda Enterprises in Williams Lake.
“That pays for a lot. We used $160 on gas the other day at the Soda Creek fire. That’s coming right out of our bottles and cans.”
It does sound crazy that emergency services are being paid for by bottles and cans but until the department can prove it has enough volunteers and enough community push it cannot become affiliated with the Cariboo Regional District, he explained.
In the meantime, they are moving forward, argoing to show up and do their best.
“We just try to defend, surround and drown,” Hicks suggested.
“We’re not going inside buildings and we’re not claiming to be super heroes or anything, we’re just at the very basic stage.”