In British Columbia, our wildfire season typically begins in April. It’s impossible to accurately predict the severity of a particular fire season or identify areas where fires are likely to occur far in advance, so it’s crucial to prepare for any possibility. For crews in the Coastal Fire Centre, this time of year provides opportunities to complete or upgrade training, renew certifications, work on fuel management projects and prepare for the upcoming season. Crews must be fully trained, prepared and certified before the season begins in earnest. Firefighting is a crucial part of our crews’ responsibilities, but they may be called on to do any number of tasks. When flooding occurred on the banks of the Fraser River last spring, for example, some of our crews were kept busy filling sandbags. In order to carry out this work, they first had to complete their swift water training course. Our crews go through a rigorous process to prepare for the wildfire season. Within the first few days of reporting for duty, they must pass a fitness test, prove that all of their first aid and transportation
In the Coastal Fire Centre, the majority of our fire crews are auxiliary workers and about 75 per cent of employees only work four to six months per year. Therefore, they must undergo rigorous “recurrency” training every year. These crews return to work in the spring and must refresh the skills they’ve acquired in previous years, learn new skills and catch up on any operational changes that occurred over the winter. Firefighters also spend time: studying and reviewing previous work; reading about new administrative procedures, standard operating procedures and guidelines; studying fire cause investigations; and reviewing vehicle safety and use protocols. Although reviewing written documentation is essential, the practical application of skills is highlighted during this period. Crews maintain a strenuous fitness regime while honing their skills working with pumps, hose lays, relay tanks and vehicles — including winching, fireguard construction, first aid and safety procedures. They run through a variety of training scenarios and their performances are critiqued so they can strive for better results.
endorsements are current, ensure that their equipment and manifests are complete and accurate, and review all operational safe work standards. New and younger workers must also take the course on safe work standards. In B.C., all fireline crews must pass the WFX-Fit test, which is a timed test (with four different components) that has to be completed in less than 14 minutes and 30 seconds. Crew members must carry medium-sized water pumps on their back over a ramp eight times, carry medium-sized water pumps in their hands around a ramp (covering 80 metres), carry hose packs on their backs over a ramp 50 times (covering one kilometre) and pull charged hoses (hoses hooked up to a water supply) over a distance of 80 metres. The test is gruelling, but firefighters must prove their athletic abilities and maintain their physical fitness to meet the demands of the job. Passing the fitness test is a prerequisite for doing that.
Within the Wildfire Management Branch, staff work to achieve standard certifications and also very specialized certifications. Certification for a particular position or task is only granted after the person has completed the required training and then accumulated a sufficient number of hours successfully working in that position at a specified fire danger level. All Initial Attack Crew personnel (and some Unit Crew members) are hover-exit certified. Some crew are also certified to use chainsaws (as buckers and fallers), while some may have a higher level of First Aid certification than the basic level and others may have special aviation training. Along with crew certifications, the Wildfire Management Branch provides a host of specialty training opportunities for single resources (individuals) who apply for Incident Command Structure (ICS) positions. For example, someone might normally work in the finance department of a fire centre but may also serve as a logistics officer in the field, or someone might work as an information officer most of the time but also be trained in Plans in the field. Many senior staff members have achieved certification in multiple streams. Ongoing training and certification (and training in multiple streams) is strongly encouraged within the Wildfire Management Branch. This helps create a very flexible and well-prepared workforce.
The Incident Command System’s Operations Section is responsible for all tactical incident operations and implementation of the Incident Action Plan, which is authorized by the incident commander. The Operations Section is broken down into three organizational units: branch, division and group. The branch usually divides the fire incident into more easily managed pieces. Within the branch, divisions will often be defined by geography (e.g. north flank of the fire, south flank of the fire, etc.). Within those branches, a group often consists of any grouping of personnel and resources that contribute to a specialized function. For example, a medical group may contain first aid resources and emergency transport vehicles (ETVs) to transport any injured workers. Within a division or group, available resources are organized into task forces or strike teams that are designed to undertake specific tasks. They include different kinds of resources that are grouped together under one leader and share communications. If stream crossings are required to fight a fire, for example, a task force may consist of a hydrologist, workers and
V30026—Gates Lake—Pemberton Zone near Birken. The Fire was reported on May 17, 2014 at 8 pm. The fire was human-caused; a poorly situated campfire which was not built on mineral soil. The fire grew to 3 hectares in size. Resources assigned to the fire on May 18, 2014, included 2 helicopters, 26 firefighters, and 1 water tender. From May 7, 2014 to May 30, 2014, the Coastal Fire Centre’s Pemberton Zone, in concert with the N’Quatqua Band Council and the First Nations’ Emergency Services Society of B.C., is conducting a series of prescribed fires, which is part of a larger prescription in the area known as Haylmore near the communities of D’Arcy and Devine. The burns will ultimately cover approximately 32 hectares (dependent upon conditions). The prescribed fires will burn the forest understory, leaving larger trees intact, and will help restore open forest conditions to reduce fire behaviour and enhance berry production. Please note that there is a potential that this project will be extended.
heavy equipment. A strike team is a group that uses common resources, has a pre-determined leader and also shares communications. (An Initial Attack Crew could be considered a strike team.) One specialty branch of the Operations Section is the Air Branch. The designated branch director is based on the ground and is in charge of all air operations. The tactical component of this branch forms one group and associated support personnel and resources form another group. Within the tactical component, fixed-wing aircraft would be designated as “air attack” resources. During a wildfire incident, one air attack officer controls all responding aircraft from an aircraft flying over the fire. A helicopter co-ordinator (HelCo) is in charge of all helicopters assigned to the fire.
Every function within ICS has a colour for easy identification. Operation’s colour is Orange.
SYNOPSIS: A weak upper ridge continues to slowly build and has brought widespread clearing to all Coastal zones. A few cloudy patches remain but the clearing trend is evident and all locations will be sunny this afternoon. There is, however, some left over moisture and instability still centred over the Coast Mountains so a few cumulus, even large cumulus, will pop up along the mountains. There is even a slight chance of an isolated thunderstorm. The ridge becomes a little stronger tonight which maintains the clear skies for tomorrow. The sunny weather Saturday generates warmer afternoon highs and also somewhat lower humidity readings. Winds remain light except for afternoon river inlet inflow breezes. OUTLOOK: The ridge is not all that strong or well placed and for the next few days Coastal zones will remain balanced between clouds and showers flowing through interior BC and warm dry clear weather west of Vancouver Island. Sunday sees the ridge weaken a little allowing a minor trough to drift through with a few cloudy periods. Showers are unlikely Sunday but may pop up over the Coast Mountains by Monday. Current projections show the ridge rebounding again Tuesday. 6 TO 10 DAY: The yo-yoing ridge-trough pattern continues all next week. Forecast charts keep skies mostly clear with little or no chance of rainfall but only slightly above normal temperatures.