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Fatigue setting in for fire crews battling B.C. infernos as 258 blazes burn

B.C. Wildfire Service says it’s seeing an increase in safety issues due to fatigue
Brentt Call, a firefighters with Utah Taskforce One, walks through a burned over area of the Bootleg Fire east of Klamath Falls as crews work to stop the largest wildfire in the United States so far this season. The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry celebrated the regiment’s 107th birthday fighting the Thomas Creek fire on Aug. 10. (BC Wildfire)

Fatigue is setting in as wildfire crews continue to battle blazes across B.C., contributing to an increase in safety concerns.

Todd Nessman, manager of fire operations with B.C. Wildfire Service said in an Aug. 19 press conference that fatigue is something that’s taken seriously.

“It’s been a long summer for many of our firefighters and staff supporting the efforts,” Nessman said. “With that increased fatigue we’re starting to see more safety concerns come forward — more slips, trips, falls, as well as other serious occurrences, are happening.”

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Nessman said the Wildfire Service is keeping a close eye on its crew numbers as many will be heading back to post-secondary institutions in September.

“In terms of resources we have approximately 3,800 personnel out — 1,250 contractors are working, we have 520 out of province resources which include 240 military, 430 structure protection personnel and over 500 heavy equipment operators, 147 helicopters and 38 air tanker aircraft,” Nessman said.

Scattered rain and lower temperatures have helped crews make progress on wildfires across B.C., but Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth warned the province will need to remain vigilant in the weeks to come.

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“We’re nowhere near out of the woods and we need to keep working to support our firefighters and emergency management crews,” he said.

Those comments come as 258 wildfires burn in the province. While no active fires have experienced significant growth, the province is averaging five to 10 new fires a day with 54 in the last week. There are currently 75 evacuation orders affecting 6,126 properties and 122 evacuation alerts affecting 19,840 properties. Nine First Nations have passed emergency resolutions and 28 local governments are under states of emergency.

With thousands of homes evacuated, B.C. RCMP Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said 500 RCMP members are in communities impacted by wildfires and are conducting patrols to ensure no criminal activity is occurring in evacuated areas. To date, the RCMP have not seen any reports of looting or criminal activity in evacuated areas.

Shoihet encouraged evacuees to contact the RCMP if they have specific concerns about the security of their property.

B.C. Wildfire Service remains concerned about the Cariboo and Southern Okanagan where dangerous fire behaviour conditions continue. The B.C. Wildfire Service says the outlook ahead is ‘favourable’ with cooler temperatures and scattered precipitation on the way.


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