Current situation “unprecedented”

“We were just overwhelmed”

The Gustafsen smoke plume as seen on the first day of the fire. Pauline Weigelt photo.

“The forest is dry, but depending on what weather we get we might get a lot of fires we might not get many. This is a really unprecedented event, to have so many fires all at once. We were just overwhelmed,” says Mark Hamm, Deputy Fire Centre Manager at the Cariboo Fire Centre during a town hall in Prince George on July 13.

“Other areas in the province were in a similar situation so we were as prepared as we could have been.”

He says the fire centre had been preparing for a hot year.

“We brought the tankers in a little bit early this year, about a week early in April. We had our usual preparations in terms of unit crews. We’ve got four unit crews in the Cariboo, so that’s 80 firefighters and for initial attack we’ve got 12.”

It’s really hard to take preventative measures when it comes to lightning, according to Hamm because you don’t know where it’s going to hit.

“Within the fires that we have now, one of our objectives will be to remove all the unburned fuel that’s in there so that they don’t pose a further risk. Down the road, we have a landscape fire management plan that incorporates fuel management treatments around the communities, fuel breaks in the forests. We’re starting to begin some work on that this year and we’ll certainly carry on with it. I think we’ll probably see a lot more support for that kind of work after a season like this,” he says.

“If the climate is changing as the scientists tell us it is, I expect we will see more years like this in the future.”