During previous years, the local BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) offices have been constantly busy, phones ringing off the hook, dousing fires, however this year, due to the wet summer and no major wildfire activity, the department has had a slow season.
“The last time it was this slow with fires was in 2011. That year it rained all summer too,” said Will Roberts, the wildfire assistant with the local BCWS.
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.
In the past, when the wildfire season has been slow, the Burns Lake BCWS crew has gone to various other communities to fight fires. Last year, they were sent to Cassiar, northern Alberta and Yukon. However this year due to the pandemic, travelling to fight fires elsewhere in the region hasn’t really been the number one option.
“With Covid and all that we don’t mind the fact that we are not travelling and going to other communities to fight fires because the more we can keep our crews local and stay close to home, the better,” said Roberts.
A lot of the work for the BCWS this year has been for recreation sites, trails and other community projects such as improving some of the fuel management and hazard mitigation around the community.
“We are basically making sure the roads are brushed out and cleaned, and then for the hiking trails just doing the maintenance work and repairs or upgrades that need to happen,” said Roberts adding that a lot of work is also being done 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.
A typical day in the life of the BCWS crew these days has them arrive to work and immediately get to their fitness training. They then head off to whichever community project they are assigned to for the day whether it is doing hazard mitigation around the community or the trails. There is also a little time set aside for cleaning the gear and the trucks.
Recently, they even organized a charity car wash in Burns Lake, to raise money for the Live It, Love It organization.
This year in Burns Lake, which is the main base for the BCWS, there are a total of 32 crew members and then there are another 10 at the sister base in Houston.
“We appreciate all of the support that we get from the community. And I just want everyone to stay safe and report fires if you spot them,” concluded Roberts.