Most Vancouver Island firefighters have been released from the Fort St. John fire deployment.
Rain aided firefighters in knocking down four large wildfires in the region, and the majority of those involved in the battle have returned home.
It’s left them tired but appreciative of their fellow firefighters across the province who were willing to drop everything and go.
“It was socked in smoke steady. You could barely see 100 feet in front of you for five days straight,” said Deputy Fire Chief Matt Rickett of Ladysmith Fire Rescue.
Their three firefighters left a week ago Monday and are among dozens who left Vancouver Island around that time, prepared to be gone for two weeks.
They helped protect homes and were involved in monitoring a lengthy backburn to control the fire.
“That was the largest one I’ve ever seen. It was about an 18-kilometre stretch of road that they backburned,” said Rickett.
Fortunately, the BC Wildfire Services says 40 to 70 mm of rain fell Sunday into Monday and helped in the knockdown of the wildfires allowing most Vancouver Island firefighters to head home early.
“It was awesome to have that, and then the farmers, and the homes that we were protecting — they were really grateful that the rain had come and they could get a sense of relief that this could be over for them,” said Rickett.
Captain Bart Rosser also just returned with two colleagues from the Cranberry Volunteer Fire Department.
“You parked your truck for 10 minutes and it’s covered in ash,” said Rosser.
They were involved in protecting Blueberry River First Nation’s land.
He says the 10-hour work days were tiring, especially when you factored in travelling from a safe zone to sleep.
“It was travelling an hour and a half each way so it makes for a long day but if you’re up there, you might as well work,” said Rosser.
The BC Wildfire Service says from a high of 500, most firefighters have returned home with a couple hundred remaining.
“That’s kind of the stage where all these fires are at. Primarily mop up and patrol. It’s phenomenal to see the quick response from the structural firefighters in supporting our crews on the ground and it was definitely a major factor in getting these fires to the point that they are at now,” said Kathy Desrosiers, an Information Officer with the BC Wildfire Service.
The firefighters now home say they are glad they were able to help during this provincial effort.
“I would say 50 per cent of the fleet that was up in Fort St. John was from the island. Yeah, it was great to see the island representation up there,” said Rickett.
READ MORE: Dozens of Vancouver Island firefighters go to fight fires near Fort St. John