P.E.I. plays ‘piv­otal role’

Is­land for­est fire­fight­ers help con­tain wild­fires in B.C.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM DAY

For 14 days, Nick Thomp­son’s work­place was dry, dusty, hot and smoky.

The air qual­ity had never been so poor.

“It was a lot worse than any other fire I had been to,’’ says Thomp­son, 37, of Strat­ford.

Thomp­son, a pro­vin­cial for­est tech­ni­cian, has fought dozens of for­est fires in P.E.I., Nova Sco­tia, Al­berta and Mon­tana.

He was one of 12 Is­land for­est fire­fight­ers — all em­ploy­ees with the prov­ince’s Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ties, Land and En­vi­ron­ment — that teamed up with six fire­fight­ers from New­found­land/Labrador to help con­tain wild­fires in Bri­tish Columbia.

The team was as­signed to the Gustafson fire in the area of 100 Mile House, about 200 kilo­me­tres north of Kam­loops, B.C. The sus­tained ac­tion team worked to se­cure the fire perime­ter, iden­tify hot spots, and ex­tin­guish deep-burn ash pits to pre­vent flare-ups.

Thomp­son and his fel­low Is­land for­est fire­fight­ers were on the fire line for more than 13 hours per day in what is a true test of fit­ness and train­ing.

Each fire­fighter that vol­un­teered needed to first pass the WFX FIT test, which is a phys­i­cal per­for­mance stan­dard used to de­ter­mine whether

an in­di­vid­ual possesses the phys­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties nec­es­sary to meet the rig­or­ous de­mands en­coun­tered while fight­ing wild­land fires.

Thomp­son drank at least

eight bot­tles of wa­ter each day while on the fire line. He also packed plenty of ba­nanas, ap­ples and gra­nola bars to curb his hunger.

“With it be­ing so hot, just keep­ing hy­drated (is crit­i­cal),’’ he says.

“You have a fairly good weight of gear that you are walk­ing with, so it can be phys­i­cally de­mand­ing that way as well.’’

The Is­land fire­fight­ers fared well in bat­tling the wild­fires and mea­sur­ing up to the phys­i­cal de­mands, he notes.

“Pretty smooth, ac­tu­ally… there wasn’t any big in­ci­dents where any­one got into any trou­ble or any­thing like that,’’ he says.

“It’s al­ways great to have more fire­fighter ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ he adds.

“I find every fire I’m al­ways learn­ing some­thing.’’

Com­mu­ni­ties, Land and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Robert Mitchell lauded the work of P.E.I.’s 12-per­son fire­fighter crew.

“They played a piv­otal role in con­tain­ing the Gustafson fire and have a great deal to be proud of,’’ says Mitchell.

The Gustafson fire was es­ti­mated to cover more than 6,000 hectares but is now be­ing re­ported as 100 per cent con­tained.

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Nick Thomp­son, one of the 12 Is­land for­est fire­fight­ers who re­cently re­turned to P.E.I. af­ter help­ing con­tain wild­fires in Bri­tish Columbia, says the air qual­ity was the worst he has en­coun­tered in the dozens of for­est fires he has tack­led over the years.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Tony Koughan of Strat­ford was one of 12 P.E.I. for­est fire­fight­ers that helped con­tain wild­fires in Bri­tish Columbia work­ing 14 days on the fire line.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ja­son MacEach­ern, one of 12 P.E.I. for­est fire­fight­ers sent to help con­tain wild­fires in Bri­tish Columbia, works on a hotspot in Gustafson, about 200 kilo­me­tres north of Kam­loops. He was part of a crew that worked to se­cure the fire perime­ter, iden­tify hot spots, and ex­tin­guish deep-burn ash pits.

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