Forestry firefighters putting in long, hot days on north Vancouver Island fires

Forestry firefighters putting in long, hot days on north Vancouver Island fires

WATCH: Forty-four fires continue to burn on northern Vancouver Island, keeping firefighters on the ground busy. But as Dean Stoltz reports, they love every minute of what they do.

Helicopters come and go from the Quinsam Fire base in Campbell River and at the end of each day, they bring back weary firefighters who have spent 10 to 12 hours on the front lines of B.C’s wildfire fight.

“It’s hot for one and it’s tiring,” said firefighter Russ Henderson. “It’s an incredible sight.”

This was Henderson’s eight day on the job but next to him, it was David Sarra’s very first day fighting forest fires.

“It’s like you’re doing something that matters and hard work but what a great bunch of guys, it’s wicked, I love it, first day, but I love it.” said Sarra.

They’re fighting some of the 44 lightning-caused wildfires burning on the north island. They fly in and get dropped off in some pretty remote areas.

“It’s very steep because it’s all lightning caused, so the lightning strikes are in high elevation peaks and so a lot of hiking and lot of steep terrain.” said firefighter Kara Galbraith.

They work with a helicopter that provides water to a portable water tank.

Fires can be unpredictable so safety is always the first priority.

“We work with the winds, we always anchor in on the safest part of the fire and then we work adjacent from the fire and work uphill with it and never above,” added Galbraith.

Keeping ahead of the fires has been a challenge for fire crews.

“We are barely keeping it under control that’s for sure,” said Crew Leader Stan Charlie. “It’s just the weather and everything, it’s just a hard game to play and it’s going to be a long run that’s for sure.”

When it comes to fighting forest fires, air tankers and helicopters seem to get all the glory but don’t tell the firefighters that. They love every minute of what they do.

“We got dropped off in the middle of nowhere and we started pumping water and pouring it on the fire. That was pretty much the whole day.” said a smiling firefighter Shawn Cavers.

“Pretty exhilarating, not much more to it, it was like the best adrenaline rush I’ve ever had.” said firefighter Liam Mills.

There will be no shortage of that adrenaline because they’ve got weeks of work in the woods ahead of them.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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