BC Wildfire Service wildfire technician Chris Werrell will be working out of the Houston fire attack base this summer. (Anqelique Houlihan photo)

BC Wildfire Service wildfire technician Chris Werrell will be working out of the Houston fire attack base this summer. (Anqelique Houlihan photo)

Wildfire fighters set up shop in Houston

Two initial attack crews are based here

Houston once more has the presence of B.C. Wildfire Service firefighters as it beefs up its presence for the coming fire season throughout the region.

Two three-person initial attack crews are being stationed at the service’s Houston base along with an initial attack crew supervisor and a wildfire technician.

The Houston area is within the Nadina Fire Zone, one of four such geographic designations making up the Northwest Wildfire Centre which has its headquarters in Smithers, says Carolyn Bartos, an information officer with the wildfire service who works in Smithers.

“This is in addition to three initial attack crews and a unit crew based in the Nadina Zone office in Burns Lake,” she said.

“Also at the Burns Lake office is a wildfire officer, two wildfire technicians and a wildfire assistant.”

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

But should more assistance be required, unit crews of either 20 or 22 people in size are dispatched to a blaze.

Three of the region’s four unit crews continue to have distinctive names — the Terrace Firebirds, the Telkwa Rangers and the Hazelton Rainmakers while the unit crew in Burns Lake is known as the Burns Lake unit crew.

This year the wildfire service has beefed up the numbers for both initial attack and unit crews, says Bartos.

“We will be adding an assistant crew supervisor to two unit crews within the Northwest Fire Centre as well as an additional crew member to the Telkwa Rangers and the Hazelton Rainmakers. An additional crew member will be added to the three initial attack crews located in the Bulkley Fire Zone,” she said.

The increase in personnel will allow the unit crews to have four five-person squads for crew configuration while the additional crew member to the initial attack crews increase their capacity for an initial attack wildfire response, Bartos added.

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.

And 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.

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

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

“Our crews rotate through the Cassiar Fire Zone throughout the spring and summer as that zone does not have any dedicated crews,” said Bartos.

“In addition to the mentioned crews, there are 16 junior firefighters added to each crew throughout the Northwest Fire Centre. They are employed during the summer months, July and August,” she said.

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