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Burns Lake terrain unsuitable for specialized fire fighting equipment from Alberta

Last Updated Aug 25, 2018 at 10:12 pm PDT

FILE PHOTO (Courtesy BC Wildfire Service)
Summary

An Alberta company with specialized crews, trucks can't be used to fight wildfires near Burns Lake due to terrain: MP

People from Burns Lake voiced their frustration that special crews, trucks from Alberta weren't used to fight fires

BURNS LAKE (NEWS 1130) – Frustration levels are high in at least one┬ácommunity in northern B.C. hit by evacuation orders due to a large wildfire.

A number of people were so disappointed about a turn-of-events involving out-of-province firefighters and equipment, they staged a protest Saturday in Southside to voice their displeasure.

A huge wildfire has displaced many from that community, who were hoping an Alberta crew and their specialized trucks could be used in the firefight.

However, Skeena-Bulkley Valley M.P. Nathan Cullen says the equipment was deemed unsuitable mainly because of the terrain in that area.

“They would have used them if they could,” he tells NEWS 1130. “Apparently the folks that run that company said there’s too much of an incline and all these technical things that prevented those trucks from being able to be applied. So they’re very expensive to maintain and they had to leave town.”

Some people at first were confused and maybe even angry, he says, when the decision was made not to use the trucks. However, Cullen believes people, for the most part, have come to understand the reason.

“I know the incident commander was out there for a few hours talking to people at the rally, trying to walk them through not just the equipment decision, but also all the other things that we’ve been talking about.”

He says he understands how homeowners are feeling.

“You want everything out there all the time, and the people who run the equipment, they want to be out there too. The nature of these fires, the nature of the land around here sometimes means that you can’t have everything out and you can’t use some equipment. I’m not an expert, this is what I’m getting from emergency services and from the company so… but these guys are doing everything they can, and there’s a lot of firefighters out there and we can always use more gear.”

There are currently more than 550 wildfires burning across the province. According to the B.C. Wildfire Service, an estimated 842,000 hectares have been scorched so far this year.

It’s not just the equipment being turned away that people around Burns Lake are frustrated, Cullen adds. Some people are still taking issue with the fact that they aren’t being allowed to return to their properties.

“Particularly some of the properties that are close up to the fire,” he says. “I think emergency services is working out more permitting — they’re permitting people across so they can get in for four or five hours, take some animals out, put some fire protection up on their homes. But it’s totally challenging.”

Cullen says it’s important to keep safety in mind, not just for those who want to venture back to their homes, but also the safety of emergency crews who might have to enter the fire zone to help save them.