Fire crews in Surrey and White Rock have yet to be called to assist with wildfires that erupted in B.C. last week, including the devastating Lytton fire – but they’ll be ready when they’re needed.
“I’m fairly certain that eventually we will get the call,” White Rock fire Chief Ed Wolfe said Friday (July 2). “It could come at any time and we are ready to go.”
As of Monday morning (July 5), that call still hadn’t been received by either city. At the same time, 196 wildfires continued to burn in the province, predominantly in the Cariboo, Prince George and Kamloops regions, with one third deemed out of control.
The majority – 132 – are confirmed to have been caused by lightning, while 49 – including the Lytton Creek blaze – remain under investigation.
Wolfe said deployment of non-BC Wildfire crews to assist with such blazes is facilitated by the Office of the Fire Commissioner at the request of the province.
When White Rock is called, the department typically deploys three firefighters and one rig. They stay anywhere from four to seven days, and if needed beyond that, a new trio will rotate in.
The last time White Rock and Surrey crews were called on was during the 2018 wildfire season.
That summer, White Rock’s Evan Bird, Doug Smith and Matt Meneghin spent seven days on the shores of Takysie Lake, which, at the time, was part of a fire estimated at more than 46,000 hectares.
Surrey Fire Services’ assistant Chief Steve Serbic said crews in that city are also prepared to pitch in with the wildfires.
“We haven’t been asked to deploy… but if asked, we’re ready,” Serbic said Friday. “I think all the departments in the Lower Mainland feel that way.
Serbic was among Surrey firefighters deployed in 2018, when crews went to help with the 28,000-hectare Telegraph Creek wildfire.
He described the experience as “a lot of work.”
“For structural firefighters from a big city, when they go up there, it’s a completely different way of fighting fires,” Serbic said. “The forestry people are the experts and basically, the structure people go up there to support them when it gets close to a town.”
Tasks ranged from setting up sprinkler systems to protect buildings, to putting out hotspots and maintaining a guard with the trucks.
“It happens really fast, just like (Lytton) did,” Serbic added, of how quickly a wildfire can spread, especially when there’s a combination of a dry spell, heat and wind at play.
Chiefs in both cities said there have been no major fire events so far this summer. In White Rock, crews have dealt with “a few small things,” all human-caused, Wolfe said, while in Surrey, one of the biggest occurred Friday night in Cloverdale, when flames consumed nearly an acre of grass near 184 Street and Colebrook Road. Fire crews had it under control within an hour, Serbic said.
Surrey has been “no worse than usual” for fires, Serbic said, estimating crews are dealing with “a couple” brush fires per week, and nothing in deeply forested areas. The majority are spotted at the roadside or in the middle of a road, he added, factors that point to the likelihood of human actions as the cause.
“Definitely, cigarettes and things like that have started some,” Serbic said. “That’s just what a big city has to deal with.”
– with files from Ashley Wadhwani
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