Country roads don’t come equipped with fire hydrants. The Agassiz Fire Department fills blow-up pools of water to be used for a sprinkler system on a Kamp Road farm property. (Nina Grossman/TheObserver)

Agassiz, Harrison prepared for uncertain wildfire season

The fire departments are ready after lessons learned from last year’s wildfires

Agassiz and Harrison’s local fire departments are prepared for another wildfire season, although what exactly that season will look like still remains to be seen.

“There’s a lot of planning going into it … through emergency services,” Trevor Todd, deputy fire chief for the Harrison Hot Springs Volunteer Fire Department, said. “It’s not just by luck anymore.”

For the most part, wildfires near Agassiz and Harrison happen on crown land, and are the responsibility of B.C. wildfire crews. Agassiz and Harrison firefighters are available as support for those crews.

“The biggest thing for us is to make sure the wild-land guys have enough water to do what they need to do,” Alex Maslin, captain with the Harrison fire department, said.

Both the Agassiz and the Harrison fire departments have been trained in handling wild land-urban interface fires, something that has proved important in the last several years, including the Mount Hicks fire last summer.

RELATED: Mt. Hicks fire threatens homes as it moves west

According to Agassiz’s deputy fire chief and emergency program coordinator Mike Van Laerhoven, the department has learned some valuable lessons from the fire last summer, and is looking to pursue more training for its firefighters.

“Last year, we learned that a quick response with units from multiple agencies, such as the B.C. Wildfire Service, is very important,” he said in an email. “Having appropriate resources dispatched immediately is essential for the best possible outcome.”

Ensuring mutual aid for the rest of the district is also important, he added.

“Our response to the Mount Hicks fire lasted approximately three weeks, which could have stretched the district’s resources thin if we did not received help from other agencies, such as Harrison Hot Springs, Popkum and Port Moody Fire Department,” he wrote.

For Maslin, who was one of three firefighters from Harrison to help with the Mount Hicks fire, the blaze showed how challenging wildfires can truly be.

“It definitely gives you a sense of respect for those guys,” he said. “They’re animals.”

“You’re hiking up goat trails, making your own path as you go,” he added. “You’re carrying two hoses at a time, and these forestry guys come up carrying six, passing you. They’re incredible.”

Surrounded by mountainside, the Agassiz-Harrison Valley has been a historically popular spot for wildfires over the last 100 years.

The 2018 Mount Hicks fire was in nearly the exact same location at a human-cased fire in 1951. That fire was more than 354 hectares.

There were a large number of significant fires in the 1940s, many of which encroached on what is now farmland or residential areas in the District of Kent and Harrison Hot Springs. Most of these were human-caused, including one 1,700-hectare fire that went from Sasquatch Provincial Park to what is now Harrison’s Eagle Street in 1938.

Exactly what this year’s wildfire season could look like is up in the air. B.C.’s “Early Summer Outlook” says that June rain will be an important factor in whether the province sees a fearsome fire season. (B.C. experienced a dry May and June in both 2017 and 2018, which saw a longer and busier fire season.)

“Every season’s been different so far,” Maslin said. “I mean, fires are getting a little bigger, a little more aggressive every year. But what that looks like for our region, who knows.”



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Agassiz study to look at drone use for pesticide application

The study will be the first in Canada to use drones to apply pesticides to farm fields

Delays en route for Highway 7 in Harrison Mills

Road resurfacing will cause month-long delays for drivers travelling through Harrison Mills

The luckiest man in Agassiz finds more than 200 four-leaf clovers

Walt Hardinge has found more than 219 four-or-more leaf clovers this spring alone

Chilliwack’s pediatric observation unit gets financial shot from trades workers

Unions and contractors donate more than $30,000 to Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation

Missing Chilliwack man not heard from since January

Kristopher Shawn Couture, 25, last made contact with family from Edmonton

VIDEO: Quadriplegic man takes flight over Harrison Mills

Jim Ryan hasn’t moved his arms or legs for three years, but that didn’t stop him from paragliding

Trial slated to start Monday for accused killer of Abbotsford cop

Oscar Arfmann faces first-degree murder for death of Const. John Davidson

New airline regulations bring compensation for tarmac delays, over-bookings

Some of the new regulations will roll out in July, while others are expected for December.

Body found after fire at Surrey homeless camp, police say

Surrey RCMP say the body was found inside a shed after firefighters extinguished the fire

RCMP probe hit-and-run of Richmond senior

The man, who is in his mid-70s, was walking with his wife when he was allegedly struck

More than half of Canadians support ban on handguns, assault rifles: study

Divide between rural and urban respondents in latest Angus Reid Institute public opinion study

Coquitlam crash kills one person, injured two others

Investigators with the RCMP criminal crash unit are working to determing the cause of the incident

Spring rain needed as B.C. sees one of the lowest snowpack levels in 40 years

Snowpack levels in B.C. recorded on May 15 were similar to those in 2015 and 2016

Theresa May to quit as party leader June 7, sparking race for new PM

The new Conservative leader will become prime minister without the need for a general election

Most Read