Courtenay Fire Department’s engine 11 on scene at area destroyed by fire. (Photo: Lance Petty/Courtenay Volunteer Fire Department facebook page)

Courtenay crews doing well in forest fire battles

Courtenay Fire did so well at Williams Lake in the battle to stave off a forest fire, that the department was asked to send another crew there, as well as crews to other areas.

The first crew, consisting of four firefighters and an engine, headed up to the northern B.C. community for a stint which started July 11.

“By all accounts Courtenay Fire Department representatives have performed admirably, so much so that we have been asked by the Incident Commander in Williams Lake to send up an additional four members to relieve the ones currently in the area,” reported acting fire chief Kurt MacDonald.

Since July 11, the Courtenay department has sent five different crews to locations such as 150 Mile House, Loon Lake, Kelowna, Monte Lake and Clinton, as well as Williams Lake.

“Each crew has been working a six-day shift on average, which has allowed 20 different members of our department to experience an event of this magnitude,” reported MacDonald.

“They have come back with some great ideas on how to improve our wildfire fighting capabilities that we will be implementing in the near future, and have been very grateful for the opportunity to participate.”

MacDonald noted that the crews experienced “long, hot and tiring” days, working 10 to 14 hours at a time.

Tasks they have been performing include protection of a Williams Lake sawmill, extinguishing hot spots in residential areas, removing fuel loads from homes that had been evacuated, and supporting the BC Forest Service in its attempts to divert fires around populated areas.

MacDonald said the department’s volunteers have provided “tremendous support” by remaining in town and available to respond to local calls during the deployments.

“We currently have no concerns with our ability to protect our residents should something occur here,” he wrote.

MacDonald added that expenses incurred during the wildfire deployments are covered by the province.

Courtenay council decided to send a letter of thanks to the fire department after reviewing MacDonald’s reports at their Tuesday night meeting.

“It certainly makes us feel proud,” said Coun. Bob Wells. “It’s really the boots on the ground holding the fires back. It’s a great thing for our community to participate in.”

CAO David Allen said the deployments have been benefitted the city’s fire staff.

“They had the opportunity to be in a real live situation and receive the training that comes from real experience.”

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