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Initial attack crews return to Houston for the season

Northwest Fire Centre stations firefighters throughout the region
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Initial attack crews are once again being stationed at the B.C. Wildfire Service’s base here in Houston as the service spreads out its firefighters across the region in anticipation of a busy summer and fall.

The area around Houston is called the Nadina Zone and is within the boundaries of the Northwest Fire Centre which has its headquarters in Smithers.

The two initial attack crews each will work in conjunction with two fulltime employees at the Houston location. Depending upon the location, the traditional three-person initial attack crew complement is increased by one person.

Within the BC Wildfire Service, the three-person or four-person initial attack crews are the first on the scene of fires, able to operate independently.

But should more assistance be required, unit crews of 22 people in size are dispatched to a blaze.

When not on fire duty, initial attack crews can clean up hazardous material that could be problematic in case a fire broke out and provide assistance to community-based outdoor recreation amenities such as bike trails and hiking trails.

“As far as plans to engage in project work, currently the zone is prioritizing training their new staff for the upcoming fire season, however they do plan to continue maintenance burning around the community this spring,” said Northwest Fire Zone information officer Morgan Blois.

There are four geographic zones within the Northwest Fire Centre’s area — the Nadina Fire Zone, the Skeena Fire Zone around Terrace, the Bulkley Fire Zone covering Telkwa to Hazelton and the Cassiar Fire Zone in the northern reaches of the region.

Here’s a rundown of where crews will be located within the Northwest Fire Centre’s four fire zones this season:

Skeena Fire Zone –

Terrace: one unit crew and three three-person initial attack crews based at the Northwest Regional Airport.

Bulkley Fire Zone –

Telkwa: 0ne unit crew and three four-person initial attack crews

Hazelton: one unit crew

Nadina Fire Zone –

Burns Lake: 0ne unit crew and three three-person initial attack crews

Houston: two three-person initial attack crews

“Depending on wildfire activity in the Cassier Zone, crews will still be made available to be stationed at the Dease Lake base,” said Blois of the pattern to rotate in and out crews as necessary.

Three of the unit crews have distinctive names — the Terrace Firebirds, the Telkwa Rangers and the Hazelton Rainmakers. The Burns Lake unit crew does not have a distinctive name.

The service’s junior firefighting program is continuing this year.

“Grade 12 students are able to participate in training and mentorship throughout the school semester and successful candidates will be given the opportunity to work as a junior firefighters for the duration of the summer season,” Blois said.

Depending upon local needs, crews can also be freed up for duty in other parts of the province, other parts of Canada or even be sent outside of the country should other jurisdictions require the presence of trained professionals.