East Coast crews headed to B.C. to help battle wildfires
Published Tuesday, July 18, 2017 2:16PM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 18, 2017 2:17PM ADT
Firefighters from across Atlantic Canada are on their way to British Columbia to help battle the wildfires burning across the province.
Crews from Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador boarded a chartered plane at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport early Tuesday morning.
“I’d like other people to help me out in my time of need, so definitely I’m going to help other people in theirs,” said Nova Scotia firefighter Alan Hunt.
The crew will work 12-hour shifts for 14 days straight in dangerous conditions that can quickly shift.
Nova Scotia firefighter Robert Davis says he’s prepared for long, hot days.
“I’m expecting very volatile situations as far as fire indexes go, and extreme heat,” said Davis. “Two-week temperatures looking like it’s going to be in the 30s.”
More than 40,000 people remain out of their homes as nearly 160 wildfires burn across the province. Jim Rudderham, the operations manager for fire protection in Nova Scotia, says the images and reports out of the province have been difficult to watch.
“It’s heartbreaking. You get the weather extremes like that, like we had here in Nova Scotia last summer, and you just hope for the best,” said Rudderham. “There’s really not much you can do; try to hold them until the weather helps you out.”
Stephanie Pinksen, who has been a wildlife firefighter for 10 years in Newfoundland and Labrador, will be crew leader on the mission. She says they’re ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
“Our terrain is probably similar. We have very steep slopes in Newfoundland, just like B.C.” said Pinksen. “However, we do have a lot of water to utilize in Newfoundland and Labrador. In B.C. I’m told it’s quite dry.”
The firefighters will join crews from New Brunswick already on the ground, and more are on the way. A crew of 22 left the Fredericton International Airport Tuesday morning, in addition to the crew of 22 that left last week.
“The reports we’ve got on the other crew, they’re doing well,” said New Brunswick wildfire prevention officer Roger Collett. “They’re getting out on the fire lines and they’re getting some work done. As far as progress, it’s hard to say. They get a little bit done and then there will be a bad fire day, but they’ve been doing well.”
More than 1,880 square kilometres of British Columbia have been burned by wildfires this year, exceeding the entire 2016 fire season.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Marie Adsett and The Canadian Press