forest fire fighters
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Transcript of forest fire fighters
2 THE FREE PRESS, Thursday, August 19, 2010 www.thefreepress.ca
By Rebecca EdwardsFree Press Staff
If initial attack forest fighter Andre Chalibi does his job right, you may never hear about the work he has done.
Chalibi leads a team of three Ministry of Forests and Range firefighters from Cranbrook whose job is to be on call to respond with-in 15 minutes of receiving news of a fire.
The teams role is to try to extinguish the small fire quickly, before it becomes so big that the South East Fire Centre in Castlegar has to deploy a full unit of 20 fire fighters.
We go out to a fire when it is small and assess it to try to keep it small, Chalibi says.
We are trying to stop it from growing into the big fires that cause evacuations and damage, so they are the fires that really dont get picked up by the media and reported on.
During a busy period there may be as many as 100 fires started by lightning in an hour the fire centre is very busy so the more fires we can put out at the initial stage, the more chance we have of success.
Chalibi, who lives in Kimberley, has worked as a ministry fire fighter for
four years. His is one of five crews based in Cranbrook who work 24/7 shifts to ensure there is a swift response to any reported fires.
The team can also be deployed across B.C. - Chalibi and his crew have just returned from fire fighting in Smithers.
Earlier this year other initial attack (IA) crews from Cranbrook went to Quebec and Manitoba to assist with fires there.
On a normal shift, Chalibi says his role is to make sure the team is ready to respond as soon as possible to any fire within the South East Fire District which stretches from the Alberta border in Sparwood to Yahk east of Cranbrook, and the Elk Lakes park to Skookumchuk.
He adds: We do one hour of fitness training each shift sometimes we have to hike up to 2 km to fires, there is quite a bit of steep ground, travelling up and down in a lot of heat can be quite arduous on the body.
We have also been doing
some work with the RDEK clearing dead-standing timber that could be a fire risk.
In our zone we have a grass fire season so the crew members have to come in from early to mid-April. It can be fairly busy from when the snow melts to when the grass greens up.
We usually have a rainy seasons from mid-May to June. This year we didnt have much of a spring but the summer was late start-ing so it wasnt as busy. After it gets hot the fire sea-son goes until the signifi-cant rainfall in September.
Chalibi said that as the Elk Valley and Cranbrook area is in a rain shadow, there arent as many light-ning-caused fires here as in other areas of the Kootenays. The main fires he responds to are human and industrial-caused fires. One of the first fires this season was an eight hectare fire triggered by an explo-sion at Greenhills Mine in Elkford, which set the near-by mountainside alight.
He says campers can
help prevent wildfires by following the new campfire regulations that came in on July 1, and by observing any open fire bans.
Having campfires is great but its better to keep them smaller so that if they do start to spread they can be put out. Make sure they are out before you leave or go to bed.
All it needs is for people to have some common sense and to know the regulations before you light that match.
However, Chalibi says he
enjoys a campfire as muchas anyone else as long asthey are done right.
Campfires are the back-bone of being Canadian going camping in the wil-derness, roasting hot dogsand marshmallows.
But it can always be done in a safe way by knowingwhat the regulations are inyour area and taking somebasic prevention steps thereis no reason why you canthave a campfire.
Just be responsible and use common sense to keepthe fire small enough.
So far this year the South East Fire Centre has responded to 186 fires covering a 518 hectare area.
New campfire regulations(from July 1, 2010)
Campfires cannot be larger than 0.5 metres by 0.5 metres.
People must scrape down the dirt and remove flammable debris twigs, leaves and needles from the campfire area. We recommended the fireguard be at least one metre in diameter.
You must have a shovel, or at least eight litres of water nearby to put out a fire.
Failure to follow the new rules could result in a $345 fine. An additional $345 fine would be levied for campfires lit during a ban.
Anyone who causes damage to Crown forest or grass land through arson or recklessness can be fined up to $1 million or spend up to three years in prison.
An air tanker drops fire retardant on a wildfire. In initial attack, air tankers drop fire retardant and/or foam on or near small fires to limit their spread until ground crews arrive to extinguish them. Ministry of Forest and Range photo
Poised for attack
Initial attack firefighter Andre Chalibi carries out prevention burning. Ministry of Forests and Range photo