A completely evacuated property, a single dirt road with all the signs completely blacked out from the heat, trees combusting into flames in the distance, and the entire forest floor cleared down to the rocks and still smouldering days later—those are some of the things Acting Lieutenant Whistler Fire Rescue Service, Mike Brew, recalled from his time helping secure the fire up near 100 Mile House.
“It’s definitely eerie. I don’t think you ever notice the forest bottom there, so once the fire goes through, it looked like a different planet or something with the rocks everywhere,” said Brew.
“But it’s just smoke and fire everywhere you are looking. It’s amazing and devastating all at the same time.”
Brew was one of two Whistler firefighters and three from Squamish who were called in to help with structure protection at the Flat Lake fire for two weeks.
According to Brew, structure protection consists of things like moving flammable objects away from homes, digging out and building fire breaks and setting up sprinkler systems to help protect homes and other buildings.
“When I left, we hadn’t lost any structures,” said Brew. “We were in rural areas so we were in the old Gold Rush area that’s right there, so we were protecting an old barn that was built in I think 1880, and it had the archway in the middle where the stage coach would drop people off on the old highway, so there were pieces of history that we were trying to protect as well as the owners home that was on the same property.”
Brew, who was deployed last year to the Anderson Lake fire, said this deployment was an amazing experience from top to bottom. Everything from the vital—and successful—work they were doing, to the learning opportunities of working with other experienced firefighters to how appreciative the locals both in the Flat Lake area and here in Whistler were of the work they were doing, stood out to him in a positive way.
“It was amazing and awesome for us to get to work alongside the Squamish guys and seeing a different way of doing things and learning from their experience and teaching each other how to do things and also working with Big White that has been doing this for a long time—spending half a day with those guys I learned more than I ever learned in a classroom,” he said.
“So, it’s just problem solving and quick thinking and things that would come with experience. That’s not stuff they teach you in a classroom.
“And we had people reaching out saying, ‘Hey I’ve got a place on Green Lake, if you want to go there and take a swim or use the laundry facility.’ People would send food, and the community support is evident. And people from here were thankful that we were going out to do it. I think it’s worth noting that we appreciate the effort from everyone.”
Despite having just returned, there is a chance another call will be coming in soon for more support from the Whistler Fire Rescue Service. And if that call comes in, Brew will be ready to go back and help however he can.
“I am ready and willing to go and would love to go again, but I would also be happy to share the experience with other firefighters,” he said. “I know the more people we send the better the learning is, the more prepared we are for when it’s needed here. So, I’m absolutely ready to go again, but if it is somebody else’s turn it is a benefit to the community as well.”
Four members of Pemberton Fire Rescue also returned from deployment recently. They were called two weeks ago to help with the fire that decimated Lytton earlier this month.