Alberta Wildland Firefighting Adventures – On the ground at the Lodgepole wildfire

Natalie_EWF-015-05-2710Day 1 –Tuesday, May 12

The morning started off normally with a crew run. We try to get in a solid hour fitness with the whole 20 pack every day. That afternoon we got dispatched to a 1.5 hectare fire near Wolf Creek in Edson that was burning in grass and some timber.

First on the scene was a rappel crew, who then turned it over to us – we were able to have that wildfire under control by the late evening. Sitting down for dinner at roughly 10 p.m., we were told that we were headed out tomorrow to the wildfire 8 kilometres north of Lodgepole, which was roughly 200 hectares at the time. Our orders were to have our bags packed for 15 days and to meet at the truck at 5:50 a.m.

Knowing little but expecting to be ready for anything – that’s the name of the game in fire.

 Day 2 – Wednesday, May 13

We arrive at the Lodgepole fire base in the morning with the usual briefing of fire behaviour, safety and firefighting strategies.

The firefighting crew I am a part of is unique, it’s a unit crew. We are a fully assembled 20 person unit crew, which allows us to divide and conquer. We break down into five sub crews of four to be more strategic in critical spots of the fire. We are versatile and able to adapt quickly to situations. Our leader, Michelle Wigmore, has more than 20 years of wildfire experience and a wealth of knowledge to share with the crew, teaching us the tricks of the trade!

We were each assigned a part of the perimeter of the wildfire. Our objective was to secure the fireline and stop the growth. My crew took a section of the east flank. We started up the water pump and continued to lay hose for most of the day; we emptied 13 boxes of hose which is over 5,000 feet of hose!

All the crews, over 100 firefighters on this wildfire, worked incredibly hard and it showed. That day I walked over 25 kilometres – our phones have a health app which keeps track. This is pretty average for a unit crew firefighter as we work large areas daily.  Our day ended with us setting up camp at the Lodgepole firebase at around 10 p.m.

 Day 3 – Thursday, May 14

The next day came early with a 5:40 a.m. alarm. The team worked 17 hours on the fireline securing and containing this wildfire. Everyone keeps up a great attitude and puts in lots of effort in hot temperatures. Our fitness training really comes in handy for wildfires like this one – our high level of fitness keeps fatigue away.

Thanks to a unified and experienced crew, my fellow firefighters are able to easily fill different roles as needed; firefighters like sub leader Even Peck who, with six wildfire seasons under his belt, was appointed Division Supervisor on the second day of the wildfire and was put in charge of several crews on half of the fire. He has been doing a great job making sure everything on the ground runs smoothly, adapting quickly to any hot areas flaring up and getting the right crew at the right time. Nice work out there Peck! I’m happy to say this wildfire was contained before any rain fell. Great work out there team!

Natalie_EWF-015-05-3565This is my first season with the Edson Unit Crew and so far all I have to say is this is one determined crew! With the amount of work we have accomplished in this last week, the high-spirited crew members make these long days on the fireline easier. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season has in store for the Edson Unit Crew!

Until next time – I will be working the fireline!

-Natalie

5 thoughts on “Alberta Wildland Firefighting Adventures – On the ground at the Lodgepole wildfire

  1. Pingback: Fire restrictions enacted in bone-dry northwestern Alberta | Globalnews.ca

  2. Thank you so much for working tirelessly to protect this beautiful province, the animals, and the humans and homes and camps etc… You are heroes to us!! Stay strong and stay safe!

  3. Pingback: Alberta Wildland Firefighting Adventures – So you wanna be a wildland firefighter, huh? | Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development

  4. Really enjoyed reading your blog- happy to see a mixed crew. 30 years ago I was a member of the first all female Initial Attack crew in Grande Prairie. Keep up the great work!

  5. Pingback: Alberta Wildland Firefighter Adventures – A busy spring | Alberta Environment and Parks

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