Learning to tame wildfires in Chilliwack

Boot camp training in Chilliwack will include classroom work as well as field work focusing on firefighter safety while fighting wildfires.

Would-be firefighters are at boot camp in Chilliwack learning how to safely suppress a raging wildfire.

The 200 potential firefighters were short-listed from 1,000 applicants, said Fire Information Officer Fionna Tollovsen from the provincial Wildfire Management Branch.

They were split into two groups, with the second starting training sessions on Sunday at the RCMP Pacific Regional Training Centre on the former military base.

The concern this season has to do with low snowpack levels — specifically in the northeast and southern interior parts of B.C. — which could mean they’ll have a busy wildfire season.

A total of 60 wildfires have already been reported across B.C. this year to Wildfire Management Branch.

“All have been person-caused,” explains Tollovsen. “This time last year we only had 24 fires.”

Boot camp training will last about one week, and they’ll do classroom as well as field work revolving around safety.

“It’s a pretty intensive seven-day camp, but most of the participants enjoy it.”

They have to pass a fitness test and be able to carry a fully charged hose.

“They’ll be learning basic firefighting techniques, including pumping hoses and building a fire guard.”

They’ll be hiring between 135 to 155 new firefighters for the coming season.

Over the past 10 years, the average number of fires reported per year across B.C. is 1,969, with an average total cost of $144.8-million.

The BC Government’s Wildfire Management Branch says 41 per cent of the fires are people-caused, with 59 per cent lightning-caused.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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