BC Wildfire Service says critical equipment used to fight some of the province’s devastating blazes has been moved and sometimes stolen, in one case three times.
The fire service says the pumps, sprinklers, hoses and ATVs that have been taken in the North Shuswap area are “critically impacting” the effectiveness of structural protection.
Information officer Forrest Tower says if residents who have chosen to stay behind despite evacuation orders have ideas for where equipment should be placed, they should talk to someone in a uniform before moving anything.
The wildfire service issued a social media post saying gear that would protect dozens of homes is being moved to areas where the equipment is ineffective.
Tower cited one case in which equipment protecting the wooden Scotch Creek bridge, which provides access for multiple communities, was stolen three times.
He says if that bridge were to burn, communities would have to either rely on boats or make a lengthy trip east if they needed to flee to safety.
B.C. Premier David Eby says while people might think they are being helpful when they move equipment, firefighters are experienced when it comes to making those decisions.
“You are not helping if you’re moving firefighter equipment. Firefighters are experts, the equipment is put there for a reason,” he said.
“And when it’s not there when the firefighters go to get it, that is a big problem. So please do not tamper with firefighter equipment.”
The Bush Creek East wildfire in the Columbia Shuswap region, which merged with and encompassed the Adams Lake wildfire this weekend, is now estimated at about 410 square kilometres in size.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 21, 2023.