A team of firefighters from the Williams Lake Fire Department with a Structure Protection Unit were deployed to Fort Nelson over the weekend.
A news release from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations says B.C.’s landscape is tinder dry in some regions, and with extended hot periods and severe thunderstorms in the Interior, the B.C. government has deployed additional assets to help manage wildfire threats.
The industrial-sized sprinkler unit will focus primarily on protecting oil and gas camps and their equipment, as well as a switching station with a total value in excess of $150 million.
The unit is designed to be deployed during an interface fire to dampen roofs and areas around structures and to prevent sparks or embers from igniting structure fires. One SPU can protect between 30 and 40 homes or larger industrial structures.
Williams Lake Fire Chief Randy Isfeld says five of the department’s members were sent to Fort Nelson to set up sprinkler protection units to protect the gas infrastructure.
“As far as any structures or anything, forestry has an agreement with the office of the fire commissioner, so if any structure protection team is up there — or in any area for that matter — forestry does identify some of the risks they have there and contact the Office of Fire Commissioner.”
The Office of the Fire Commissioner then picks appropriate teams.
“They tend not to pick from the same zone where an incident is happening,” Isfeld adds. “They try to pull the units where not much action is happening. Our team was called and sent up there. They went up to Fort St. John and then up to Fort Nelson and were deployed out of there, and the Office of the Fire Commissioner would also have a structure protection member or liaison with forestry up there.”
Isfeld says it’s not known how long the Williams Lake firefighters will be needed.
“They could be up there for a couple of weeks or they could be up there for a week, and they just rotate out.”
For example, three are coming back on Thursday. On Wednesday the department is sending up another three people to replace those returning.
With five members in Fort Nelson, there are still another 35 members in Williams Lake to respond to fires in the local area.
The Wildfire Management Branch has also deployed fire crews, airtankers and heavy equipment to aid suppression efforts in the area.
“Fire safety is a top priority for our government and where homes, business and infrastructure can also be protected, we try to mitigate impacts using these Structure Protection Units,” says Shirley Bond, minister of justice and attorney general. “This deployment is a good example of how we work to protect significant infrastructure and manage wildfire threats.”
Steve Thomson, minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, says minimizing the negative economic impacts from wildfires is an important part of the overall fire management plan.
“Installing structural protection units where appropriate is one more tool at our disposal, and is evidence of government’s co-ordinated response to wildfire threats.”
Ninty-one fires are burning in the province. Since April, there have been 663 fires, burning nearly 16,000 hectares of land.
About 48 per cent of this year’s fires have been caused by people.
This is the second deployment of the SPU resources this year. In May, the OFC sent two crews, two SPUs and a structure protection specialist to Pavilion Lake near Lillooet to protect a First Nations community.
To report a wildfire, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on most cellular networks.