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Pitt Meadows firefighters face flames and bears while battling blazes up north

Pitt Meadows Fire and Rescue Services had 3 firefighters in Lillooet area
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Pitt Meadows Fire and Rescue Services sent a crew of three with Wildland 1 to help battle the wildfires in the B.C. Interior. (City of Pitt Meadows Facebook/Special to The News)

In addition to Ridge Meadows RCMP sending officers and supplies to help deal with the wildfire crisis in B.C., several firefighters also went to help combat the flames, with Pitt Meadows Deputy Fire Chief Stephane Drolet reporting that all of them have now returned home safely.

On Aug. 21, a team of three firefighters from Pitt Meadows Fire and Rescue Services left for the Lillooet area with a Type 6 fire engine.

READ MORE: Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge fire crews help battle B.C. wildfires

“They were deployed in Gold Bridge, which was one of the most active fire zones that they had, and they lived in tents in a quarry,” said Drolet. “They had to be in a quarry because they were surrounded by fire and smoke.”

From the moment they arrived, Drolet said the firefighters were put to work, helping to contain the blaze and prevent any more property damage from occurring.

“They worked hard,” said the deputy fire chief. “They were deployed 12 to 14 hours a day, every day. They were deployed for a total of 12 days because on the second week, I guess rain and the fire behaviour was not as bad, so we were able to demobilize and come back home.”

However, before getting the chance to leave, the firefighters had one last challenge they had to deal with.

“The last night that they were there, at 1:20 in the morning, they were woken up by a grizzly bear that was in the camp and going towards tents,” said Drolet. “So they gathered their stuff real quick and drove for about three hours on the forestry zone, and that camp was decommissioned that day. It’s now grizzly bear country.”

While the absence of these firefighters did put some additional strain on the rest of the Pitt Meadows Fire and Rescue Services team, it also presented some benefits as well.

“It was a great experience and one that we learned a lot from too,” explained Drolet.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think it’ll be the last time we will be deployed. We will be training all of our officers so that everybody can go on the next one and we can spread the workload.”

None of the local firefighters were injured during their time up in the interior, and both they and the equipment returned to Pitt Meadows without incident.

READ ALSO: Consultant recommends Maple Ridge hire 25 more firefighters, build new hall

Councillor Bob Meachen said that he was particularly proud of the fact that Pitt Meadows firefighters were sent up north to help during the province-wide state of emergency.

“Many people tragically lost their homes and it was great that we were able to lend that support to the communities north of us,” said Meachen. “A big salute to the firefighters that made that journey and did that work.”

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