The BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) crew in Burns Lake is slowly returning to the village.
This year, the crew is returning over three dates. The first was on Mar. 1 when a third of the crew returned, next was on Apr. 6 and the final return date is on May 3. That’s when the entire crew will be back to the town. This year, there will be a total of 27 crew members in Burns Lake and 10 in Houston.
The Burns Lake and Houston BCWS is known as the Nadina Fire Zone and covers a large area from Endako to Hungry Hill between Houston and Telkwa and Tweedsmuir Park in the south to the top of Babine Lake in the North.
As crews return, they will have to do their annual fitness testing which is happening this week in Burns Lake and again in May. The training will happen throughout the months of April and May.
Since all the crew members are returning members from within B.C., they are not required to quarantine or self-isolate as per the provincial guidelines.
In the past, the Burns Lake BCWS crew has not only fought fires in the community but have also gone to various other communities to fight fires. In 2019, they were sent to Cassiar, northern Alberta and Yukon. However last year due to the pandemic, travelling to fight fires elsewhere in the region wasn’t top of the list for the crews.
A lot of the work for the BCWS in Burns Lake in the first half of last year was for recreation sites, trails and other community projects such as improving some of the fuel management and hazard mitigation around the community. They also did a lot of work to help out local community organizations such as the Omineca Ski Club, Ride Burns, the Houston Bike Club and the Houston Hikers’ Association and also certain things such as brushing out weather stations for the local government agencies.
However, in September, the BCWS crew from Burns Lake and Houston were sent to fight the wildfires down south in California, United States along with several other crews from the province. Of the 20 firefighters sent from the North, 13 were from the Burns Lake and Houston crew.
It is still early to tell as what the season would look like for the crew and with the pandemic, the travel restrictions would continue to be in place unless the crew is required to travel like last year. There also are no mandates on vaccinations for the crew yet however, with the village of Burns Lake and District of Houston both opening up vaccination for all age groups, the crew will now be eligible to get their vaccines if they choose to get it.
“Nothing has really changed from last year, we will be doing the annual training and we will continue to conform with the COVID protocols,” said Brad Blackwell, the zone wildfire officer.