The Prince George Fire Centre is getting a head start in a potentially bad year for fires after receiving a new fire crew and two air tankers to complement its firefighting arsenal.
The 20-person crew will join over 80 firefighters in Vanderhoof, and the two tankers will be based out of Williams Lake, said senior fire service protection officer Dave Dunsdon.
“Anything we get is a bonus,” he said Tuesday. “A 20-person crew is a good punch in an expanded attack (on forest fires). It offers more mobility in moving fire pieces around.”
The crews can work self-sufficiently for 72 hours, and can work on a fire line for up to two weeks.
Premier Gordon Campbell announced five new 20-person unit crews, two tankers, and $3 million to improve fire management last week.
The new hardware, personnel, and cash come as the government is implementing all 42 recommendations of the Filmon Fire Review, Campbell said.
“Most recommendations will be in place this fire season,” he said.
The two new tankers, Convair 580s, can fly four hours without refueling, and have almost 8,000 litres in capacity for fire retardant.
The $3 million grant to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities – with $1 million coming from the ministries of forests, public safety, and Community, Aboriginal and Women’s Services – will be used for community sprinklers, emergency planning, and fuel management strategies.
The Prince George fire centre is responsible for about a third of the province, Dunsdon said, from the Yukon border to Valemount, and from Endako to the Alberta border.
The centre currently operates with two unit crews and 23 initial attack crews, which include six smoke-jumping crews.
Dunsdon says this summer has the potential for as many fires as the last one, which saw millions of hectares of timber destroyed.
“The key is June,” he said. “If we don’t get any rainfall, it usually means we’ll have a busy year.”