(BC Wildfire Service)

Thefts of firefighting equipment hinder efforts against B.C. wildfires

RCMP investigating Harrop-Proctor fire equipment theft, and others in Cariboo region

Fire crews have reported multiples thefts of fire apparatus as they fight to stop wildfires from laying waste to interior B.C. communities

Each day, anywhere from $5-to-15 million is spent on fire suppression efforts. But some are getting in the way of crews doing their jobs.

It’s been almost two weeks since BC Wildfire Service equipment – including a water pump and 10 hoses – were stolen from crews fighting a wildfire northeast of Nelson in the Harrop-Proctor area. Without the equipment, fire crews were unable to battle the blaze in full force for several days before it could all be replaced.

RELATED: Hoses and pumps used by 20 firefighters at the Harrop Creek fire stolen

That act of theft is still under investigation, along with a number of other thefts and acts of mischief related to fire suppression. In some cases, these incidents involve people targeting local fire stations, gear and trucks used in fighting the wildfires in the Cariboo region, said RCMP spokesperson Dawn Roberts.

“These are criminal acts and they’re seriously impacting the safety of others, including our emergency personnel and the public,” she said.

“We’re asking people if they come across firefighting equipment to do the right thing and leave it alone.”

The RCMP have had to now direct officers to investigate the cases, diverting support for firefighting efforts in the region, Roberts added.

Meanwhile, Skrepnek said with resources already spread so thin this season, the thefts are one more barrier hindering crews from protecting communities from raging wildfires.

In the case of the Harrop fire, equipment had to be brought in by water and air transport – which can eat up a lot of critical time when fire activity is aggressive and volatile.

“Obviously in any situation the theft of equipment is reprehensible, but especially with what we’re dealing with right now,” he said. “We’ll make up for the equipment and we’ll get it into the hands that need it, but it’s definitely frustrating to see this kind of thing happen.”