An Alberni Valley fire department has sent a crew to assist with the fight against wildfires in B.C.’s Interior.
The Cherry Creek Volunteer Fire Department sent its water tender, along with a crew of two, to the mainland earlier this month.
Cherry Creek VFD Chief Lucas Banton says the crew is currently battling the Lytton Creek Complex wildfire, which is blazing at more than 30,000 hectares. A few weeks ago, the fire destroyed the village of Lytton in a matter of minutes.
Cherry Creek’s water tender was first called up to assist with wildfires in B.C.’s Interior by the office of the fire commissioner in 2017.
“After that, with each deployment we learned more,” said Banton. “We’re pretty versatile with what we can do.”
The tanker can carry 1,500 gallons of water and is typically used where there are no fire hydrants. Over the past few years, the crew has also added attack hoselines on the tender so it can act as an engine.
While Tender 34 is deployed outside of the Alberni Valley, the Cherry Creek VFD uses an older tender brought in from the Industrial Heritage Society to assist with any fires in the Cherry Creek area.
“We pull from other [Alberni Valley] fire halls as well, so that helps,” said Banton.
At the moment, Cherry Creek is the only Alberni Valley fire department with a crew stationed in the Interior, but Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District fire services manager Charlie Starratt says Beaver Creek VFD and Sproat Lake VFD are both on standby. If they are deployed, it will probably be a “joint deployment,” said Starratt, with one engine and a crew made up of members from both fire departments.
Banton says he isn’t sure how long the water tender will be stationed on the mainland. Crews are stationed there for anywhere from seven to 14 days at a time, which is a “big commitment,” said Banton.
“We’ll be there as long as we have crews available,” said Banton. “It looks like it’s going to be a tough fire season. We might be there a couple weeks, it might be into September.”