Long Wildfire Season Exhausting for Firefighters, Emergency Personnel
Williams Lake, B.C. – This summer has been the worst wildfire season on record in British Columbia and as a result those fighting the blazes and others working in emergency management have been working harder than ever.
However, Chris Duffy, executive director of operations with Emergency Management BC, says there are rules in place to help employees get through this grueling season.
“There are safe worker guidelines that outline how many duty days you are allowed and so right now for us, folks are working generally 10 days on and then days off,” he says.
“But given how long this event is sustained, some folks are on shorter rotations than that even. So, it’s a little bit flexible given people’s health and wellness.”
Rules are also in place for those working with the BC Wildfire Service.
“We have safe work standards – not only for hours worked in a day and hours between shifts but maximum days that need to be worked,” says chief fire information officer Kevin Skrepnek.
“Our max is 14 days consecutively. But echoing what Chris said, given that this has been a protracted season and given that the Wildfire Service as well was quite engaged in flood support in the spring, certainly it’s been a long few months. So, in a lot of cases we’ve been shortening that 14-day window as well whenever it’s practical for us to do so.”
Though exhausting work, he adds there are around 3,700 personnel assigned to battle the blazes – including 1,400 contractors and hundreds of out-of-province and out-of-country personnel to help ensure everyone gets enough rest.
But despite the strict work guidelines, there’s still no end in sight for this wildfire season with 138 fires burning throughout the province – including 14 new starts yesterday.
In fact, there have been 1,049 fire starts since the season started April 1 burning a record 944,000- hectares of forest.