As people fled the wildfires in the Cariboo, firefighters rushed towards the them. Among those battling the blaze are volunteer firefighters from the Regional District of Fraser – Fort George (RDFFG).
“Since the wildfire situation; which takes us back to that first weekend in July, we have had 4 volunteer departments respond and provide support either through crews and/or equipment,” says Renee McCloskey, the Manager of External Relations for the RDFFG.
The Beaverly, Salmon Valley, Ferndale Tabor and Mackenzie Fire Departments are all assisting in the Cariboo. “We have 4 equipment (trucks and engines) and 2 of our SPU (Sprinkler Protection Units) that have been deployed. With that, we probably have about half a dozen to a dozen of our volunteer firefighters that are out there as well,” says McCloskey. “It’s a very fluid situation, it could change day-to-day depending on what what the fire risk is looking like in our own communities and also what sort of volunteer personnel we have available. So when we get those requests we take a look at all of those things and respond where we have capacity.”
The Prince George Search and Rescue (PGSAR) team also answered the call. “PGSAR has been there twice now, so we were down there last weekend and the weekend before,” says Dave Merritt, a PGSAR Manager. “Last weekend, we had close to 15 members supporting Central Cariboo Search and Rescue out of Williams Lake doing an evacuation order for the community.”
In total, 45 Search and Rescue members from Williams Lake, Quesnel, Prince George, Vanderhoof, Smithers and 100 Mile House have offered their services in the Cariboo. Many of whom are still in Williams Lake.
It can take a toll, however. On average, SAR teams are working 15 to 18 hour days. “So if you average that out from the days our teams–not just our team [PGSAR], all SAR volunteers — we are sitting at over 4,500 hours over two weekends of straight volunteer time,” says Merritt. “That’s not including the other public safety life line volunteers of the emergency social services crews, the armature radio guys who provide support and CASARA who can move people with their aircraft.”
All of the volunteer hours may go unnoticed, but the help is needed. “What is shows is we are really all one community within BC. We are neighbours and friends. Where there’s a need and we have the ability to help out, we are going to do that,” says McCloskey. “Much like we would expect the same in return should we find our self in that situation.”