A flare up threatens structures near Clinton, B.C. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

A flare up threatens structures near Clinton, B.C. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

Alberni firefighters assist in fire ravaged Interior, gain valuable skills

Rick Geddes and Lucas Banton continue to fight fires near Clinton, B.C.

With 2017 having recently been declared as the worst wildfire season in B.C., surpassing the 1958 record, Port Alberni firefighters continue to assist in the Interior where fire has ravaged forests, homes and farms.

Rick Geddes, deputy fire chief with the Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department, has been based out of Clinton and surrounding areas since Tuesday, Aug. 8 fighting fires.

Since his arrival, Geddes said conditions have improved but initially temperatures were sitting around 35 degrees Celsius and heavy smoke made vision difficult.

“You could barely see 100 feet away, I’ve never seen anything like it,” Geddes said. “The majority of [the fire] is out, it’s just hot spots now and the odd flare up. We’ve had a few pretty significant flare ups in the last couple days but for the most part it’s burning into areas that’s already burned, so it can’t go anywhere for the most part.”

Geddes said when he first arrived there were close to 200 firefighters based in Clinton, a number that has since been cut down to about a dozen as conditions improve.

One of the four firetrucks that remain in Clinton is from Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department that Lucas Banton, Cherry Creek Fire Chief, brought in from Kelowna, where he had been helping.

Read: Cherry Creek water tender stationed in Kelowna

Although based in Clinton, crews have been working extensively in surrounding lake towns—mainly Loon Lake and Pressy Lake.

“We’re working in a little town (Pressy Lake) where [fire] has wiped out probably three dozen homes,” Geddes said. “Fire came in there and wiped the place out…It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.”

Geddes said just over a week ago, crews were working in Loon Lake, located northeast of Clinton, when the small fishing town “really went up in flames.”

“Several structures were lost down there,” he said. “It’s very weird, the fire behaviour, it’s random and will burn right up to a house and then skip it and wipe out the rest of the block. It’s the weirdest thing.”

Geddes said wind has a lot to do with the random fire behaviour.

“The fire is really wind driven because of the hills. Fire likes to go uphill, especially with wind,” he said.

Adding to the devastation, fire destroyed Loon Lake’s fire hall, but luckily, Geddes said fire crews saw it coming and managed to save their trucks.

“The community hall is right next to the fire hall and it was unscathed, so [fire crews] have been working out of the community hall,” Geddes said. “Their fire hall was a total loss but they’re able to still function.”

Fighting the fires, Geddes said, has been physically excruciating, and mentally devastating.

“Seeing the destruction, I’ve never seen anything like it,” He said. “I’ve [fought] dozens of fires before where houses were wrecked but not dozens of houses in one incident.”

He said it hasn’t been easy to see the aftermath, or cattle, deer and other animals running free with nowhere to go.

Although his experience in the Interior has been difficult at times, Geddes said overall his involvement will be unforgettable.

“I think most of all it’s been a great experience, especially seeing how other fire departments work and being able to work side by side with them,” he said. “We all train in different parts of the country, different parts of the world because there’s people from Australia here and United States and Alberta. We’re all speaking a common language and working towards a common goal, it’s a neat feeling.”

Geddes will bring back his gained fire knowledge to his crew at Sproat Lake.

Although surrounding towns have been heavily damaged by fire, Geddes said Clinton remains mainly unscathed.

“Where I’m sitting now, which is basically downtown Clinton, I’m looking around and you really can’t see any damage from the town,” he said. “You can see a few plumes of smoke off in the distance from fires that are still going but the town itself, nothing was lost, but right up to it, Cache Creek, got a good scare.”

Clinton’s evacuation order was lifted early this week.

“It was really neat to come [back to Clinton] and see people walking the streets and cars moving again and life sort of starting to get back to normal,” Geddes said. “It was the strangest thing when we came into town last Tuesday evening and nothing was open.”

Geddes said his expected arrival back home will be either this weekend (Aug. 19 or 20) or early next week, but that could change.

karly.blats@albernivalleynews.com

B.C. wildfires 2017bc wildfiresbcwildfire

 

Fire crews near Clinton, B.C. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

Fire crews near Clinton, B.C. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department’s water tender truck doing its job to assist with wildfires in the Interior. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department’s water tender truck doing its job to assist with wildfires in the Interior. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department’s water tender truck in front of Clinton Memorial Hall. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department’s water tender truck in front of Clinton Memorial Hall. PHOTO COURTESY RICK GEDDES

Rick Geddes, right, Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department deputy chief, and Mike Albrecht, Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department firefighter assist with wildfires in B.C.’s interior. PHOTO COURTESY LOON LAKE

Rick Geddes, right, Sproat Lake Volunteer Fire Department deputy chief, and Mike Albrecht, Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department firefighter assist with wildfires in B.C.’s interior. PHOTO COURTESY LOON LAKE

Just Posted

CELEBRATING IN STYLE
Members of the 2021 Alberni District Secondary School graduating class pose for a photo at McLean Mill National Historic Site on June 12. Graduates held their prom on Saturday, although things looked a little different due to COVID-19. See more on page A10. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni 2021 grads celebrate prom with car cruise

Special event held at McLean Mill National Historic Site

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

AW Neill Elementary School in Port Alberni. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)
SD70 chooses new name for AW Neill School in Port Alberni

New name honours Nuu-chah-nulth Peoples’ connection to region

Ron MacDonald fields questions at a news conference in Halifax on Sept. 27, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Finding ‘comfortable’ indigenous monitor tough task in Tofino-area shooting death

Julian Jones case hampered by difficulty finding a civilian comfortable with privacy protocols

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

Neighbours fight a small late-night bush fire with garden hoses and shovels in Cinnabar Valley on June 5. They couldn’t get help from local fire services because the fire was located in an area under B.C. Wildfire Services jurisdiction. (Photo courtesy Muriel Wells)
Neighbours on edge of Nanaimo city limits left to put out bush fire themselves

Cinnabar Valley residents tackle fire with hoses and buckets for two and a half hours

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read