The Victoria Fire Department sent six of its firefighters over to Fort St. James to help combat wildfires on Wednesday.
The crew consists of Ross Isherwood, Murray Chunyk, Jed Hyde, Paul Hicke, Trevor Partlow and Luke Lampard, who traveled with both a structural fire fighting engine and a 2,500-gallon water tender vehicle.
The firefighters left after a call was put out by the B.C. Fire Commissioner for aid as wildfires spread throughout the province.
“We’re catching up to the issue of what we experienced last year,” said Victoria Fire Chief Paul Bruce. “This year we’re a little more proactive in requesting and deploying resources.”
Still, Bruce said that this is only just the beginning.
“The worse is potentially yet to come,” he said, “We’ll see how this next week plays out.”
At the time of deployment, the fire at Fort St. James was around 50,000 hectares, with most of the town area on evacuation alert, with 1,600 residents urged to evacuate.
Nearby, Shovel Lake was experiencing a fire of about 35,000 hectares, and a third smaller fire at Francois Lake hadn’t yet been addressed, something that Bruce said is simply a matter or prioritizing.
“It’s all about resource management, and that’s something we need to look at and update almost hourly,” he said.
The firefighters and fire engines were the first resources Victoria sent to the Interior this season, and also the same amount they were able to put forward last year.
“When they’re seeking resources from the Island, it’s a real indicator of how dire the situation is,” Bruce said. “We don’t want to leave an area unprotected.”
At the time of deployment there was no determined time limit of how long the Victoria firefighters would be out, but it was estimated at least seven to 10 days.
“We’re hopeful that resources can get a good grip on the fire situation across the province,” Bruce said. “We’ve also got our fingers crossed hoping that we’ll get a little rain.”
Firefighters from across the region have also traveled to the Interior to help, including two firefighters from Sooke, along with a Sooke fire engine, one from the Langford Fire Rescue and one from the Metchosin Fire Department were sent up to Fort St. James. Four firefighters from View Royal will head out on Friday morning, along with a truck, and fire chiefs from both Metchosin and View Royal will also head out shortly.