Salmon Arm  

Rapattackers busy with fires

A challenging wildfire season has meant the Salmon Arm-based rapattack team has been busier than ever.

The 40-member team has been sent to both general and specialized assignments this season as the province has dealt with an overwhelming wildfire crisis, according to Justine Hunse of the BC Wildfire Service.

Team members, who can rappel into fire zones by helicopter, worked in the Shuswap, as well as elsewhere in the province.

In July, a five-hectare wildfire burning by St. Ives resort, near Anglemont, was tackled by the rapattack team and a 20-person ground crew.

They were also used for local flood assistance in the spring, said Hunse.

There had been concern about the future of the rapattack group after the former provincial Liberal government announced last year it would no longer provide room and board for the rappel crews stationed at the base.

Catering ended last January, but a plan to eliminate housing is now being rethought, Hunse said.

“No one lives on the base year round, (but) in terms of on-base accommodation for next season, it was recently decided to extend live-on accommodations for the 2018 season in order to conduct an accommodation review provincially.”

The rapattack team has:

  • 30 firefighters who make up 10 crews
  • seven crew supervisors
  • one successional crew leader
  • two support staff

Several members of the staff were deployed as single resources as:

  • heli base managers
  • helicopter coordination officers
  • strike team leaders
  • task force leaders
  • division supervisors
  • fallers

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