Coquitlam Fire and Rescue sends four firefighters to help fight West Kelowna blaze

Coquitlam also sends multiple personnel to fight fire near Boston Bar
Photo by Jay Heike/Unsplash

Last Friday, Coquitlam Fire Chief Jim Ogloff received a phone call he had been expecting for a couple of days. 

Although the McDougall Creek wildfire in West Kelowna had already grown exponentially the night before, there were telltale signs that a combination of factors would coalesce to turn the blaze into the worst fire the region had seen in 20 years.

The forecast predicted winds sweeping through town at at 30 kilometres per hour, temperatures topping 30 C and humidity sliding under 30 percent. Those three factors culminated in a dangerous phenomenon known as the “30/30/30 condition.” 


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“Effectively, [BC Wildfire Service] said it would reach the 30/30/30 condition, which is a high risk condition for fire growth,” Ogloff said. 

“Unfortunately, for the West Kelowna and Shuswap region, it came to be.” 

Coquitlam Fire and Rescue sent four firefighters and a fire truck to West Kelowna on Saturday morning, less than one day after receiving a call from the province to help with the response to the McDougall Creek fire. 

“It’s the right thing to do,” Ogloff said. “No community on their own, even if you’re the largest one in B.C., like Vancouver, can withstand something that has that level of impact.” 

Coquitlam joined more than 30 other municipalities across B.C. — including Port Moody — to calm the blaze, which has grown to 12,000 hectares and damaged roughly 200 structures.  

West Kelowna Fire Chief Jason Brolund stated in a press conference last weekend that he was grateful for all the communities that showed up to help the city fight the fire. 

“I’m going to use this venue to say to those fire chiefs . . . Thank you,” he said. “I will find a way to pay you back for the help that you’re delivering to me and my fire department.” 

Lending a hand

Coquitlam frequently keeps tabs with the province on how they can assist other regions.

As a city that has many neighbourhoods bordering dense forests, Ogloff said the Coquitlam Fire Department spent significant resources more a decade ago to bolster their resources and equipment. 

One of the notable additions was a structure protection unit, a 22-foot long trailer that has a standardized set of equipment to fight fires. 

It also has a sprinkler structure that can create a blanket of water around a home. 

“Burning embers that are flying in the air, they’re dropping on combustible surfaces like decks, wood roofs or grass around the home,” Ogloff said. “The sprinkler system allows embers to get knocked down, so the fire doesn’t start directly around the home.” 

The Coquitlam fire department sent five firefighters and the trailer to the Chilcotin region for nearly a month earlier in the summer — which has been declared as the worst wildfire season in Canada on record

“My heart goes out to all the residents in Kelowna, Shuswap, Boston Bar,” Ogloff said. “This whole season has been pretty traumatic for a number of residents in the north and Chilcotin area.” 

Firefighters rotated on a 10 to 14 day basis in the Chilcotin area. 

After the trailer returned one week ago, Coquitlam assigned five more firefighters and the structural protection unit to the Kookipi Creek wildfire near Boston Bar late last week. 

Assisting other communities is the right thing to do, Ogloff said. But it also helps his team of local firefighters learn how to fight a blaze in high pressure situations. It’s experience that could be vital if a major fire occurs in Coquitlam. 

“It affords us the opportunity to have our staff work directly with B.C. Wildfire Service, gain field experience and work under the command structure of an event that hopefully never happens,” he said. 

The city has 158 firefighters on staff, and even though they lend people to different communities, a minimum of 20 personnel stay in Coquitlam. 

The depth has made it easier to help other communities in need, Ogloff said. 

The four Coquitlam firefighters are still in Kelowna. Ogloff keeps in daily contact with their supervisor, and will lend his personnel to the Okanagan community for as long as they need it. 

Although the four firefighters will return home after 10 days, as per the rules of their contract, a new four person crew will replace them in Kelowna. 

“It’s not even an ask really when we send a resource outside of our community,” Ogloff said. “They are absolutely willing and eager to go out and help.” 


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