Water bombers spray retardant over forest fire that erupted in Lake Country last summer. (Black Press files)

Water bombers spray retardant over forest fire that erupted in Lake Country last summer. (Black Press files)

Pitt Meadows chief joins forest fire fight

Don Jolley protecting buildings in Northern B.C.

Pitt Meadows Fire Chief Don Jolley is in northern B.C. helping with the provincial forest fire emergency.

The province declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, with 560 wildfires burning across B.C. as of Aug. 14.

There have been 29 evacuation orders to relocate more than 3,000 people in harm’s way, and another 48 evacuation alerts that have another 19,000 people ready to move.

Jolley is working for the Office of the Fire Commissioner as regional command staff, and was stationed in the north – first in Fort St. James, northwest of Prince George, then moved to the Fraser Lake area, which is further west. He is overseeing structural fire protection.

Pitt Meadows assistant chief Mike Larsson said such deployments are typically made before fire spreads to the area.

He said these deployments are a good experience for a firefighter.

“And you’re answering the call when the province is in need.”

Last summer, Pitt Meadows sent a crew of four firefighters, as well as Jolley to battle forest fires in the Interior.

More than 3,372 firefighters are working around B.C., including 436 personnel from other provinces, Parks Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand.

On Monday, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Ottawa would send 200 Canadian Forces troops to help fight fires.

Including this year, there have been four total states of emergency issued due to wildfires: 1996, 2003, 2017 and 2018.

Since, B.C. Wildfire chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek said $214 million has been spent to fight 1,821 fires that have burned up 381,000 hectares of B.C. forests.

That’s $118 million less than this time last year, Skrepnek noted.

The fires show no signs of abating, the province noted, as the forecast calls for hot and dry weather, as well as lightning, for much of B.C.

The state of emergency will last for 14 days, at which time it can be renewed. It gives authorities extra powers to help deal with the crisis.

“Public safety is always our first priority and, as wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to any and all resources necessary,” said B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in a release.

“Taking this step will further ensure we can protect the public, property and infrastructure, and assist with firefighting efforts.”

– with files from Katya Slepian


(files)                                Pitt Meadows Fire Chief Don Jolley.

(files) Pitt Meadows Fire Chief Don Jolley.