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WILDFIRES – From the perspective of a BC Wildfire Service incident commander

White Rock Lake fire. (Image: BC Wildfire)

The following was posted as a series of tweets by Kamloops-based incident commander Kyle Young:

My name is Kyle Young and I am an Incident Commander with the #BCWildfire Service. I am writing this post rather than sharing a video message because, frankly, it would be too emotional for me.

I am someone that ground crews, my kids, and many other people, look up to for guidance through these challenging seasons. I have been doing this job for 16 years. I am a third generation wildland firefighter, following my father and grandfather.

I have a long history within this organization and the love I have for this job is what drives me every day, along with the support I receive from my family and co-workers.

This season we have been tested and we have done everything possible to ensure people are safe.

I understand there are other opinions out there that might not agree, but please know, from someone who has only been able to spend six days with his family since June 30th, I can attest to the dedication from every single person who is employed on these fires.

2021 is different from previous years. We aren’t getting the resources we usually would from other jurisdictions due to the immense fire danger across Canada and the United States.

Then you throw a global pandemic on top of it, which has impacted how we are able to manage fires and the resources we have available to draw from. We show up to do our best but at the end of the day, we are humans and Mother Nature has the power.

We need to allow her to do what she needs to do all while keeping everyone safe.

Again, I understand not everyone is going to agree with this message and I get it, but please know that I am proud of the effort everyone in the organization, the contractors, partners, and anyone else supporting us are making.

The sacrifices to do this job are ultimately driven by passion, empathy, courage, and a huge amount of integrity. My family, along with hundreds of others, have sacrificed a lot in order for us to go out and help the people of British Columbia.

We understand the choices we have made in our career. I promise you it is not taken lightly by any of us and we feel proud to be part of this organization.

At the end of each grueling day, I wonder if everyone is okay. Not only on the incident I’m managing, but those working on other incidents, along with those deeply affected by the devastating wildfires. I wonder if I could have done something different, something better.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring, will it rain, will I be able to see my family soon, or will I open social media and be inundated with posts from people who speculate on what we do, or worse, what they think we don’t do.

This season will pass and then everyone can ask questions, we will make adjustments, and we will reflect on what we learned this season. Right now, it’s time for us, as a province, to come together and support each other.

Help us, help your neighbors, help everyone get through the next six weeks of what has been the most challenging summer.

It is also the time to remind yourself that when you post something out of anger, frustration, fear, or heartbreak, there are other families out there feeling all those same things and reading your words that may be hurtful.

 

About Mel Rothenburger (8416 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

8 Comments on WILDFIRES – From the perspective of a BC Wildfire Service incident commander

  1. This is what Farnworth said: https://www.kamloopsthisweek.com/news/farnworth-these-brave-firefighters-very-nearly-paid-with-their-lives-1.24349220 and nothing of what he said is out of line nor it is “wordsmith bulling” nor “inappropriate comments” as some “armchair experts” hereby seems to suggest. The government has not prevented people to prepare, there were warnings and close calls in the past. The government has not withheld help, these are unprecedented times. However it seems most people around here still think global warming is someone else’s’ problem…just take a note of the volume of the local traffic and the size of the vehicles driven.

    • Yes, Farnsworth said ‘firefighters very nearly paid with their lives’. The problem is that we now know that there were no (zero) wildfire personnel at that fire at all until well after the structures that burned … were smouldering.

      Which means that in actual fact there were no firefighters at the fire in question ‘risking their lives’. In such light, it is actually correct to say his his comments were inappropriate.

  2. We are so great full for everything all fire personnel are doing! Thank god for you braved souls!!! It is not YOU that folks are upset with! It is this government that tells you all and controls how much money and manpower they will allocate to each fire. THAT is what people are upset about, and rightly so!

  3. David Johnson // August 14, 2021 at 11:35 PM // Reply

    It is unfortunate that some politicians create problems for the BC Wildfire service, by making inappropriate comments that embolden keyboard warriors to pile on the people that like you, only want to do the good … and hard work necessary to protect people and property.

    As someone who spent a few seasons working medical on the fireline and in firecamp, I have seen and been a part of the reality of the day to day trials of red shirts and contract workers, the long hours, the distance to home, the continuous safety concerns, and Incident Commands that try to keep it all rolling smoothly.

    Those that sit at their keyboards and complain that ‘they didnt do’ this or that, honestly have no idea what they are talking about. Resources are finite, and pulling packs of people off of one location and onto another is a balancing act no one wants to be responsible for.

    On the line, it’s a ballet in steel toed boots, that can only result in a shower stall, chronically plugged by ash and soot. The only celebration is laying on a cot … for not enough hours, suffering sore feet, helmet abrasion and laboured smoke infested breath, and dreaming of the stuff missed back at home.

    It is the quiet majority; the rest of us who may not comment at all online but who are consciously aware every time we step out of our homes and smell smoke … that you all are out there in the bush fighting to keep it away from our own homes.

    Know that alongside the tiny but noisy criticisms
    there is a simply massive outpouring of quiet but appreciative gratitude.

  4. Tony Brumell // August 14, 2021 at 8:41 PM // Reply

    I agree with the previous comment. I would ad that I don’t believe that anyone is crytisizing the quality of work you and your crews are doing. You do a special job that makes undoable demands. And most understand that. What I see is Minister Farnworth bullying the land owners who stay behind after an evac order .He is making it appear through his mastery at wordsmithing that the work done is not good. Thats crap and he knows it. What the land holders are saying is that often (as in The White Rock lake incidents) there are none of your crews available to save residences so the owners and nieghbours can and do do it. I the minister would try to understand that there is a huge resource that can be tapped in the land owners.’ If you were allowed to work with them instead of against them things would be better. Also the use of ground based equipment resources like the Fire Bozz and other large sprinkler type fire line equipment this fire might have been stopped way earlier. Thank you for your efforts and understanding of the pressures on people who live on the land.
    I also believe that a strong look should be taken on the type of transmission poles used in high risk areas. Homes have been lost because hydro poles burn and fall. This must be remedied with steel poles that withstand most fire pressures.

    • Retrofit transmission lines with steel poles to serve a few hydro customers? Really? Because it will take all of $ 500 to do it? Theses are unprecedented times and officials are doing what they can and if some statements are taken as a little harsh so be it. Proper fire interface and preparation have been publicized long ago. Perhaps the rural home owners should’ve heed that advice rather than the mega diesel.

  5. Support you 100%, and sorry you have to put up with the nonsense from the armchair experts.

  6. Thank you Mr. Young. I am in awe of the work that you and all the people fighting the fires in BC for the rest of us. You are all heroes.

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