B.C. fires see a storm of support

Alberta firefighters preparing to help out communities next door

Just like was seen last year, the firefighting family is once again pulling together to help each other in a time of desperate need.

For the past few weeks, a huge portion of our next door neighbour B.C. have been battling numerous wildfires with thousands of both wildland and structural firefighters putting in exhaustively long hours — day after day without a break.

And as is practice, wildland firefighters from across the country plus the United States, and now from places like Australia and South Africa, are joining the battle. This is done not only to put more boots and equipment on the ground, but to provide a rest and recharge for the crews that have been on the front lines since the beginning.

Next, and something the public isn’t often very aware of, several B.C. fire departments — volunteer and career — have sent apparatus and firefighters to provide assistance to those communities whose departments have been working constantly trying to protect or in some cases actively fighting fires.

Now that request for assistance has made its way to Alberta and a lot of fire departments are getting prepared to offer what they can, just like they did when Fort McMurray was under siege.

In the majority of these cases, the equipment being used is donated by the municipality and the firefighters are taking holiday time or, for volunteer firefighters, taking time away from their other jobs to help out their fellow firefighters.

There are very likely few other professions that show that level of commitment.

However, it’s ingrained — in most firefighters — that the brothers and sisters on other departments, regardless of where they are located, are part of an enormous family. And if you are family, you usually do what you can to help without any expectations.

That’s why you’ll see career firefighters from Victoria working hand in hand with volunteers from Loon Lake or paid, on-call members from Williams Lake and, other than the different uniforms, the public probably couldn’t tell the difference between them.

Here’s hoping the weather pattern changes soon, that wildland crews get the upper hand on the more than 150 blazes still going and that those that are protecting communities are able to fend off any further losses or damage.

Best way to help

As was the case with Fort Mac, there have been people rushing out and wanting to help — be it through raising funds or looking to take donations of items for those who may have lost everything.

Now, I’m not saying that wanting to give to those in need isn’t a good thing. However, when a disaster or incident is ongoing, the best way to assist those people is to make a monetary donation.

Whether that is to a group presently working with evacuees such as the Canadian Red Cross, a charity of your choice providing assistance at the scene, or to a group gearing up to help people after they are allowed back home, the money will give that group an opportunity to best deliver the right help at the right time to the right people.

If you have items instead, hang onto them and when the danger has passed, check media from the area you want to help for ways to make donations and how best to get it to them. In that way, you can be assured the items are going where you want and not being sold at a thrift store or simply dumped because there was no plan to get them to those in need.

And don’t be alarmed when you don’t see this column for a few weeks, it’s simply because of taking some well-deserved time away from the computer, desk and anything else associated with this job.

But that is…just an observation.