VIDEO: Kamloops Fire Rescue had 'all hands on deck' for Batchelor Heights wildfire - InfoNews

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VIDEO: Kamloops Fire Rescue had 'all hands on deck' for Batchelor Heights wildfire

June 22, 2018 - 1:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - "Absolutely thrilled with the response, absolutely thrilled.”

Robb Schoular is the assistant chief of operations with Kamloops Fire Rescue, and he just moved here from Ottawa a few months ago. Yesterday evening, June 21, was the first time he got to witness his crews respond to an interface wildfire, after multiple reports came in of a grass fire near Batchelor Heights around suppertime.

"It was up in the Batchelor Heights area and certainly the fire was spreading rapidly because of the high winds at the time," Schoular says. "We are prepared to throw all available resources at that fire, hit it hard, hit it fast."

That's exactly what happened. All available firefighters — including auxiliaries — were brought in, not just to the fire itself but to make sure there were crews ready to go if anything else happened in the city.

"Because while we’re fighting that wildfire, we don’t want to leave the rest of the city unprotected," Schoular says, adding that firefighters were called in to backfill stations. "We again have to keep in mind the rest of the city, life goes on."

When a call like they received last night comes in, Schoular says crews have to assess the potential risks to homes, life, railways, businesses or highways. That determines how hard crews hit the fire, and in this case firefighters, along with help from the RCMP, bylaws and B.C. Ambulance, prevented what could have been a devastating fire.

B.C. Wildfire says the Batchelor Heights fire is now 100 per cent contained and classified as under control.

It wasn't just a frontline effort, Schoular says, pointing to at least one dispatcher who was constantly answering phone calls for 45 minutes straight. The fire itself was unfortunate, but the timing was the best it could have been according to Schoular. It was just around shift change, so daytime firefighters were able to head to the fire instead of heading home, and the night crews were able to head out as well.

"Luckily the oncoming shifts were able to work together, they jumped in to help manage this, it was not a one person show by any means, it was all hands on deck," Schoular says. "It’s not their first rodeo, speaking as an outsider coming into this."

The welcome centre at McArthur Island Park was opened last night for people who lived in the 12 homes that were under evacuation order. Schoular says three families showed up and returned home as soon as possible.

"From my perspective, I thought it went very, very well. This was my first, and I don’t think it will be my last."

A photo of the Batchelor Heights fire on Thursday, June 21, 2018 showing the fire retardant lines from the air tanker drops. At its peak, the fire was estimated at 60 hectares.
A photo of the Batchelor Heights fire on Thursday, June 21, 2018 showing the fire retardant lines from the air tanker drops. At its peak, the fire was estimated at 60 hectares.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/B.C. Wildfire Service

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