As the temperature starts to drop and the leaves start to change colour, the wildfire season comes to a close for me. I always feel mixed emotions as the fire season ends. While I am excited to see what winter will bring – to see friends and family again, and to unpack the bag I have been living out of for the past eight months – there are many things I will miss about this season. I will miss rappelling, working with helicopters, fighting wildfires and traveling, but the one thing I will miss most are the interactions with my crewmates and coworkers.
This fire season has been extremely busy across the province for Alberta wildland firefighters, but what do we do when there is little to no fire activity in Alberta?
If there is limited fire activity in Alberta we can be exported to provinces and countries experiencing significant fire activity. Likewise they share firefighters with Alberta when needed, which we witnessed earlier this season. Within the past month, the wildfire hazard and fire activity across Alberta has decreased allowing the province to send wildland firefighters to Northwest Territories and the United States assisting in both Idaho and Montana. I have never been on an export out of the province but for the lucky few it is an unforgettable experience. Continue reading
Sometimes with a job like this it’s hard to find love. I can see why that is. It’s about finding that one person who understands that you’re gone, and have to split time with your crew. Well this blog isn’t about me, but about the woman that loves me – job and all. Let me give you a bit of background on our relationship.
Scarlett and I have been married for about a year now and have been together a total of six years. Time flies when you’re having fun! We’ve had our troubles like other couples, but she puts up with me and supported me when I decided to make wildland fighting my career about five years ago. I’m sure you’re wondering how she puts up with me and my crazy job…who better to tell you than my wife herself?
Erica & Glen waiting for helicopter pick up after a long day on the fireline!
Ryan and Devon waiting for a ride too!
As I write this blog entry from the truck en route to the High Level wildfire management area, I am realizing it is August…wow where did this summer go! The last month has been a busy one for the Edson Unit Crew. Last shift was spent working three wildfires in the Edson wildfire management area (EWMA) then working the end of our shift on a wildfire in the Grande Prairie wildfire management area. A total of four wildfires! It was a pretty exciting shift and we got to do a wide range of wildland firefighting work.
Our first two wildfires in our home area of Edson were approximately 150 hectares in size. Terrain was challenging at times and it didn’t help that we had to carry and shuffle gear through the rolling hills of the EWMA! Continue reading
Occasionally a wildland firefighter works a wildfire that is unlike any other. Many wildfires are unforgettable for many different reasons to each firefighter, but there is always one that stands out among the rest. I call that the “Golden Wildfire.” Usually these wildfires are so big and powerful that they are nearly impossible to contain. Within this last month I was fortunate enough to experience my “Golden Wildfire.”
Boom! After three quick days off, the boys and I were back at it again. I suspected that my crew would be returning to the Peace River area but no matter where we go we are excited for the export. Driving up, we heard a lot on the radio about the wildfires in High Level, Alberta and La Ronge, Saskatchewan to name a few – the high need for trained wildland firefighters sure pumps us up for every shift! So far this year, Alberta has had over 1,400 wildfires. That’s almost more than we had all of last year and it’s only July. Don’t worry; we firefighters have put an ‘E’, extinguishment, on over 1,300 of them.
As many as you know, this wildfire season has been very, very busy. There have been more than 1,300 wildfires in Alberta alone since April 1, but firefighters have put out over 1,200 of them. Everyone across the province has been working extremely hard – from the wildfire crews and aircraft working in the field to the many people behind the scenes: radio operators, warehouse staff, logistics and the lookout towers, just to name a few. It couldn’t be done without everyone’s dedicated efforts! I’m very proud to be a part of the Alberta Wildfire Management Team and the amount of work we have accomplished to date.
The start of a new shift is like a blank page of an unwritten story. This shift, my first thought was a long weekend of patrols – and that is how it started – but there was so much more in store for me and my crew.
We started patrolling the Maclean Creek area, hunting down abandoned campfires, found a few, called them in and “soak-it, stir-it, and soak-it again”, you know, the standard protocol when putting fires out. After three days of hunting down campfires and helping out lost campers, it was time move on from the long weekend. Continue reading
Edson unit crew; first full shift as a crew under the belt. A grueling 24 day shift with three wildfire events added to the crew’s dossier. After fighting the wildfire near Lodgepole from out of control to being held, or contained, my crew was dispatched north to the next wildfire event: an out-of-control wildfire 44 kilometres northwest of Edson. This out of control fire exploded from 50 to 400+ hectares in less than 24 hours, requiring the efforts of all available firefighters, aircraft and equipment in the area. Normally, firefighting crews work 15-18 day deployments and only under the most exceptional circumstances are these shifts extended. With the wildfire hazard in the extreme level, the decision was made to keep the Edson unit crew on the fireline for an additional six days.
Anyone who lives in Alberta knows that the last two months have really been heating up. With soaring temperatures and little moisture, wildland firefighting crews have been busy.
My April was spent re-certifying my rappel skills, helping out with member training and fitness with Troy in Hinton, and fighting five spring wildfires out of Lac la Biche alongside my early crew.