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North Van firefighters boost Keremeos wildfire protection crews

A specially-trained firefighting crew from the District of North Vancouver will help protect homes and other buildings from a forest fire burning near Penticton.

A five-person firefighting crew from the District of North Vancouver will spend the next two weeks protecting homes and other buildings from dangers posed by the Keremeos Creek wildfire near Penticton.

The five firefighters are among a special structure protection crew trained to protect vulnerable buildings in areas near to active wildfires, said Fire Chief Brian Hutchinson.

Most likely, the local firefighters will be helping to protect buildings at Apex Mountain, one of the more significant communities being impacted by the Keremeos Creek fire. But crews will also move around, depending on where their skills are needed. “You typically have in these more rural areas a wild mix of farming, ranching and small homes throughout the area,” said Hutchinson.

The Keremeos Creek fire, one of the largest wildfires to flare up in the province this summer, was first spotted July 29, burning about 21 kilometres southwest of Penticton. By Monday, (Aug. 15), the BC Wildfire Service estimated the fire at approximately 6,950 hectares in size.

Fire activity remained mostly stable over the weekend, thanks to favourable weather conditions that allowed fire crews to make progress, according to the BC Wildfire Service.

While evacuation orders have now been lifted, evacuation alerts for a small number of properties impacted by the fire remain in effect.

The five North Vancouver firefighters will be among 27 structure protection specialists and 329 firefighters currently working on the wildfire, along with 17 helicopters and 22 pieces of heavy equipment.

Every year, the BC Wildfire Service engages with fire departments across the province to compile a list of available firefighters and equipment that can be called upon if needed.

A three-person structure protection crew with a truck-style “wildland fire engine” from District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue has also just returned from assisting wildfire crews at another fire near Sparwood.

Last summer, District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue supplied 45 firefighters across the province during the summer forest fire season, said Hutchinson.

Their work helps support communities impacted by wildfires and also provides valuable training for local crews. “There’s a host of lessons learned in the field,” said Hutchinson.

According to the BC Wildlife Service, communities near to the Keremeos Creek fire can expect smoke to continue in the area during the coming weeks – until there is significant rainfall.