About 200 reservists from the Canadian Armed Forces are completing a two-day firefighting course this week in Chilliwack before being deployed to fight wildfires in B.C.
The military personnel are being trained by Kelly Hatfull, a register professional forester and training consultant, who is guiding them through the S-100 basic fire suppression certification.
“We are counting on the military, the reserves, to come out and help us in the Interior of British Columbia with the fire situation,” Hatfull said.
The course is all about safety first, and making them aware of the hazards they’ll face on the fire line.
“Everything’s a hazard really, the fire, the smoke, the changing weather, rolling debris,” Hatfull said.
Danger trees, and beetle-kill trees can also put lives at risk.
RCMP are “burning out,” he said, and the province is bringing crews from around the world to pitch in.
But the reservists, from bases across B.C., bring something unique.
“Firefighting is a paramilitary operation,” Hatfull said. “These guys are reservists so they understand incident command systems.
“The military’s really important role here is to support all the other resources that are out on the fires now.”
The specialized training sessions are happening at the Chilliwack Fire Department’s new training facility on Wolfe Road. The department and the city offered the 4.5-acre training site when they got the request from military officials and BC Wildfire Service.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity for us to be able help British Columbia during this time,” said Andy Brown, assistant fire chief of training.
Some of their highly experienced personnel are helping with the courses, and some have been deployed to the wildfire zones.
So far 95 members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been trained in Chilliwack and sent out to help. Another two courses are set for this weekend, bringing the total to 200 military personnel who will have cycled through the training.