About 200 reservists from the Canadian Armed Forces are completing a two-day firefighting course this week in Chilliwack before being deployed to fight wildfires.
The military personnel are being trained how to fight wildfires safely by Kelly Hatfull, a register professional forester and training consultant, who is guiding them through the S-100 basic fire suppression certification.
“They’re here to learn how to fight fire because we are counting on the military, the reserves, to come out and help us in the Interior of British Columbia with the fire situation,” Hatfull said.
The course is all about safety first, and making them aware of the hazards they’ll face on the fire line.
“Everything’s a hazard really, the fire, the smoke, the changing weather, rolling debris,” Hatfull said.
Danger trees, and beetle-kill trees can also put lives at risk, so the training is geared to bringing everyone home safely.
RCMP “are burning out” and the province is bringing firefighters in from around the world to battle the numerous wildfires.
But the reservists, from bases across B.C., bring something unique to the table.
“What we have in the reservists here is a great resource,” Hatfull said. “Firefighting is a paramilitary operation, these guys are reservists so they understand incident command systems.
“What we want to do is make sure they can get on the fire line, and support our firefighters and support our RCMP and security. So the military’s really important role here is to support all the other resources that are out on the fires now.”
Chilliwack Fire Department’s new training facility on Wolfe Road is the location of the specialized training sessions that will be ongoing over the weekend, said Andy Brown, assistant fire chief of training. Some of their highly experienced personnel are also helping with the courses, and some have been deployed to the wildfire zones.
So far 95 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been trained in Chilliwack and deployed to the wildfire zones. Another two courses are set for this weekend, said Brown, and by the end of the weekend, 200 military personnel will have cycled through the training.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity for us to be able help British Columbia during this time,” said Brown.
Chilliwack Fire, in conjunction with City of Chilliwack, offered the 4.5-acre training site when they got the request from military officials and BC Wildfire Service. They were happy to share their new facilities, equipment and other resources, despite the fact that the entire base is not completely built yet.
“This is great,” said Hatfull. “What really Chilliwack is doing here is supporting our communities in B.C. by giving us the ability to train our military personnel and get them up to the Interior.”
It’s the only facility in the Lower Mainland that could accommodate this training, so they feel “blessed” and lucky, and thankful to Chilliwack Fire Department and City of Chilliwack for making it happen.