The B.C. Wildfire Service’s Blackwater Unit Crew, seen here in 2019, is based out of the Quesnel Regional Airport. (Facebook/Eric Depeneau photo)

B.C. Wildfire Service will expand its operations at Quesnel Airport

A new lease agreement with the City of Quesnel will allow BCWS to house additional crews at airport

A new lease agreement will give the B.C. Wildfire Service nearly double the amount of space it has at the Quesnel Regional Airport as it expands its operations and moves towards a more community-based response to wildfires.

The City of Quesnel and provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) will be entering into a five-year lease for FLNRORD to lease approximately one hectare of land at the Quesnel Regional Airport.

According to City Manager Byron Johnson’s report to council regarding the lease, the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) has plans to expand its operations and to decentralize the Cariboo Fire Centre in Williams Lake to provide a more community-based response to wildfires in the region.

BCWS anticipates that an additional three to five Initial Attack crews — each made up of three crew members — will be moved to Quesnel between 2020 and 2021, and as a result of this initiative, the Quesnel Base will need to expand.

The BCWS would like to roughly double the size of the leased area at the airport to accommodate an additional triple-wide modular unit to house the crews, according to Johnson.

In his report, Johnson told council the larger Quesnel Fire Centre will result in increased landings at the airport, which will generate additional landing fees and fuel sales, and it will facilitate a better, more community-based response to wildfires and generate additional employment in Quesnel.

The enlarged lease area will generate approximately $7,629 in additional annual lease revenue for the City.

The new lease agreement will replace the current agreement, and Johnson says the terms of the agreement are consistent with the previous agreement between the City and FLNRORD — and with other lease agreements the City has with airport tenants.

This new lease is effective April 1, 2020, and ends March 31, 2025.

Currently, there is a gazebo that was constructed and installed by volunteers of the Quesnel Flying Club on the site of the expanded lease area, and Johnson says City staff will work with the club to develop a plan to move or rebuild the gazebo and will explore grant opportunities to help fund this work.

Council took an E-vote on the new lease agreement March 16-18, with every councillor and Mayor Bob Simpson voting in favour of the lease, and council ratified that E-vote during its March 31 electronic council meeting.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Quesnel Airport’s opening hours changing as Central Mountain Air reduces flights

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