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The challenges municipal firefighters face in Burns Bog

(Source: facebook.com/deltapolicedept)
Summary

'In a forest, there's nothing to stop the spread of flames,' says Vancouver Fire captain on structure fires vs wildfires

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Tackling a fire in a wild space like Burns Bog is no easy task and, as provincial and municipal crews battle shoulder-to-shoulder, many city firefighters are working outside their usual element.

The strategies for fighting structure fires and wildfires can be quite different, so we approached Captain John Gormick with Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services for some perspective on the challenges city crews are facing in Delta.

“I think most staff can handle small greenspace fires; we do that on a regular basis though the summer when the vegetation is dry. But we do have specialized teams and equipment throughout the city to protect our larger wildland areas,” Gormick tells NEWS 1130.

Members of those teams have received cross-training in wildfire fighting techniques and Gormick suggests most municipal fire departments are ready to tackle any situation they face.

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“It does take unique tools and special techniques to stay safe. We have three wildlands firefighting apparatuses in Vancouver, a fair bit smaller than a standard fire apparatus,” he explains. “They are sort of an oversized pick-up truck so they can get into small areas in a park and they have a smaller lighter hose that is easier to deploy in a forest. They have all the tools that our forestry counterparts carry.”

Gormick says in the event city firefighters need to work with provincial wildfire crews, their equipment is compatible and they are familiar with the differences in techniques.

“Far less water is used compared to a residential structure fire. When it comes to containment, in a residential or commercial structure fire, buildings are self-contained and have man-made barriers between the next building in the form of a road or an alley. In a forest, there is nothing to stop the spread of the flames throughout the entire greenspace,” he explains.

“Sometimes, we have to create that on our own with chainsaws or other cutting tools to clear space and stop the fire.”

Gormick says structure fires and greenspace fires both present their own unique challenges, but he doesn’t envy provincial wildfire crews.

“They do an extremely physically demanding and dangerous job. I think both have big challenges and big dangers but certainly in different ways.”

Close to 90 firefighters from a number of jurisdictions — nearly half from the BC Wildfire Service — have been battling the Burns Bog fire, which started on Sunday and quickly spread to 78 hectares.

As of late Monday, the fire was 50 per cent contained. It could take a week before the flames are fully extinguished.