Four members of Golden Fire Rescue went on a special mission last week to protect homes near a forest fire near Oliver.
Jay LaRoy, Rob Perry, Connor Arnason, and Tom Stevens took the first watch at the Eagle Bluff fire near Oliver after BC Wildfire Services called on August 7.
They arrived in Oliver early in the morning on August 8 to assist. The four firefighters from Golden are highly skilled in wildfire and sprinkler protection, and worked to keep homes in the area safe. They took along Engine 5 for their protection duties.
Sending firefighters to protect homes in areas affected by wildfire is something Golden Fire Rescue deputy Chief Mike Pecora says they do every year.
“Whenever the province calls, we go,” he said. “We have the proper truck, and we have the properly qualified crew.”
Although the team of four left Golden, the municipality still had adequate firefighters and resources on hand in case of emergency. The fire hall has the most firefighters it has seen in a long time working for Golden Fire Rescue, leaving 21 qualified firefighters to help at home.
“Normally we would only send one or two guys. We have the biggest crew we’ve ever had,” Pecora said, adding that if needed, he could make a call and the truck would return home in the same day.
The Eagle Bluff fire is located approximately 10 kilometres southeast of Okanagan Falls, and is 2,632 hectrares in size. It was discovered on Sunday, August 4.
Previous evacuation orders have been rescinded, and the four firefighters have returned home to Golden.
There are currently 160 firefighters working on the blaze, alongside 14 helicopters, and 19 heavy equipment. During the day, 145 firefighters fight the fire, and 47 work overnight. An incident management team is also in place.
The structure protection teams are no longer stationed through communities as the risk has decreased in those areas, and the fire continues to burn away from communities.
Golden Fire Rescue is constantly working on certifiying and qualifying its members. Recently, BC Wildfire Service trained seven new members, qualifying them to fight wildfires for the province.
Golden has its own structure protection unit, which would be used to protect homes and buildings from a wildfire. The unit is for use in the municipality, Area A, and Revelstoke.
“That actually stays here unless the province calls,” Pecora said.
Last year, firefighters LaRoy and Perry joined two Invermere firefighters at the Meachen Creek fire near Kimberley. They were deployed later in August, though Pecora says this year has been a late start to the wildfire season.
“Fire season is really only just starting,” he said.