Fire­fight­ers re­turn home from Bri­tish Columbia

Two Carbonear na­tives speak on ex­pe­ri­ences fight­ing B.C. wild­fires

The Compass - - Front page - BY CHRIS LEWIS

Two men from Carbonear are just back from bat­tling wild­fires in Bri­tish Columbia.

That prov­ince put out a call for help this sum­mer as wild­fires chewed through tim­ber and fo­liage and forced evac­u­a­tion of a num­ber of towns in the prov­ince.

Vol­un­teers from New­found­land and Labrador fire brigades were more than ready to pro­vide help.

Adam Green and War­ren Oates were two of the many from this prov­ince who put their hands up to help.

Green is a con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer, un­der the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment’s Depart­ment of Fish­eries and Land Re­sources. As a con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer, one of his pri­mary du­ties is to fight fires.

Oates is a for­est ranger based out of Paddy’s Pond. Over the years, he’s taken on a num­ber of roles per­tain­ing to wildlife and the en­vi­ron­ment. He also has a lengthy ca­reer as a vol­un­teer fire­fighter with the Carbonear Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment.

“I’ve been work­ing as a fire­fighter for the past seven years in Labrador, and I’ve gone out of prov­ince five times now as a fire­fighter,” Green told The Com­pass. “Each time I go is a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Fight­ing fires in your own prov­ince is one thing, but there’s a learn­ing curve when it comes to han­dling them in other prov­inces, be­cause things are dif­fer­ent ev­ery­where you go.”

Oates’ role in Bri­tish Columbia was as a strike team leader, mean­ing he was at the fore­front of a squad of fire­fight­ers tack­ling cer­tain blazes, keep­ing the fire un­der con­trol, and bring­ing it down to a man­age­able level.

Oates worked on three sep­a­rate for­est fires dur­ing his stint in B.C., one of which he es­ti­mated to be ap­prox­i­mately half the size of Carbonear.

De­spite the ob­vi­ous stresses of such work, both Green and Oates told The Com­pass that there are plenty of rea­sons for their de­ci­sion to travel to Bri­tish Columbia, or any­where else in the world, to help fight fires.

Green said it’s a re­ward­ing learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Bri­tish Columbia was my fifth time leav­ing the prov­ince for it, and each time I come out of it with a lit­tle more ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said.

“I did three tours out­side of the prov­ince this year alone, and that all con­trib­utes to the pride I have in what I do. See­ing the New­found­land brigades out there stack­ing up and see­ing them do just as good a job as any of the other prov­inces there, that makes me proud of where I come from and who I am.”

Like­wise, Oates noted the twists and turns his ca­reer has thrown at him, have pro­vided him with a strong sense of pride in his work over the years. Whether it was as a strike team leader, for­est ranger, or vol­un­teer fire­fighter, he said ev­ery op­por­tu­nity he’s been given over the course of his life started from his pas­sion to help oth­ers.

“As strike team leader, I found my­self more into the man­age­ment part of things — set­ting goals and pri­or­i­ties, go­ing over tac­tics, these sorts of things,” he said of his BC ex­pe­ri­ence this sum­mer.

“More im­por­tantly, I’m help­ing the peo­ple I share a coun­try with, and that alone is a great feel­ing,” Oates said, adding, “If I got a call to­mor­row ask­ing me to go back the next day, I’d be all over it. I’d be out the door. It’s not just be­cause of the pub­lic safety as­pect and it’s not just my sense of help­ing peo­ple, but it also boils down to my sense of ad­ven­ture.

“I’m a firm be­liever that we should learn some­thing new ev­ery day, and I learned a lot dur­ing my time over there those are things I’ll hold dear.”

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

War­ren Oates has been in­volved in wildlife and en­vi­ron­men­tal ser­vices for many years, in­clud­ing a lengthy ca­reer as a vol­un­teer fire­fighter with the Carbonear Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Adam Green (left) and War­ren Oates re­cently spent a cou­ple of weeks help­ing fight one of Bri­tish Columbia’s largest wild­fires.

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