Crews were joined by volunteer departments from as far away as Campbell River and Cumberland to fight wind-fuelled flames in Comox Valley on Saturday because Comox has sent six of their firefighters to the fires in B.C.’s Interior.
Returning to her just-saved Comox home, Jackie Watson sees how close the wildfire came.
“Such a close call really,” the Comox homeowner said. “I mean it was just at the back of the house. ”
Saturday’s wildfire on Comox’ Curtis Road got so close to the Watson’s home that the heat cracked bedroom windows. The flames were only kept back by a helicopter above and a wall of volunteer firefighters from five neighbouring fire departments who dug in their heels Saturday and kept hitting it with trucked in water through the night and into Sunday morning.
“We even had 19 Wing on standby helping us out,” said Capt. Rob Stevens of Comox Volunteer Fire Dept. “So huge joint effort,” he added.
The teamwork was essential, according to Stevens since six of the department’s firefighters including Comox’ Fire Chief were dispatched to help the forest fires in the Interior.
“I wished they were here,” said Stevens. “But they needed to be where they were, and again if something that big happens, we did, we called in other resources.”
It’s a scenario being discussed in fire halls all over the Island, as crews try to answer the Interior’s call for help. Qualicum Beach and Coombs-Hilliers’ Fire Departments have also sent crews and equipment and more will be on the way this week.
“It’s what’s in our hearts,” said Deputy Chief Chris Hillsden of Coombs-Hilliers Fire Dept. “We don’t want to see anybody in danger and we don’t like to see things lost so it’s being involved. This is what we do,” he said.
The challenge many of these volunteer departments are facing is how to help there and keep their home turf safe in fire conditions rated high to extreme on Vancouver Island right now. So mutual aid is helping bridge that gap.
“The commitment’s there because if it was a wildfire situation on Vancouver Island we know that the Interior departments would be sending crews and equipment to support us,” said Jon Wilson of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Emergency Services. “So it’s the least we can do to ensure we’re helping out across the province.”