U.S. firefighters reflect on unique cross-border experience in Osoyoos

U.S. firefighters look back

The Ventana Interagency Hotshot Crew came from the United States to help in the battle with the Eagle Bluff Wildfire, and they commented on how phenomenal it was to work with the Canadian crews.

Harold Cook, Ventana Interagency Hotshot Crew Superintendent, said battling the Eagle Bluff incident didn’t seem much different than an “Initial Attack” incident in the US.

“I looked at it as cooperating jurisdictions and not two different countries. The unique piece was having a border you weren’t supposed to cross, but a containment line ran across the border. It gave new meaning to the adage ‘Wildfire knows no boundary.’”

And just as wildfire knows no boundary, neither does the wildfire response as Cook explained that the response wasn't much different from what takes place across the border.

“Eagle Bluff wildfire response was very similar to what we do in the States when using defence techniques on a rapidly growing incident in the wildland urban interface.” Due to the limited number of resources for suppression actions a PACE model is used which stands for Primary, Alterative, Contingency and Emergency targets.

These are established using significant terrain features to limit spread and exposure. The largest considerations are always public and firefighter safety followed by property.

One difference he observed is how the Canadian structure defence groups operate. Unlike in the United States, they operate separately from the wildland divisions and are solely focused on protecting homes and buildings.

“They ordered their own resources and operated independently. It allowed my crew to focus primarily on control and contain measures. Then, when it came time to intermix with them, they folded into the plan seamlessly and were fully prepared to support incident objectives. It was phenomenal to work with them.”

Although the response coordination was similar, Cook did underscore that this was unique and not something that they experience everyday.

"The Eagle Bluff incident was in “Initial Attack” phase when we arrived. If I remember correctly, it had crossed the border into Canada the night we arrived in Kamloops, British Columbia.

“The incident was still evolving, and most other resources were focused on structure defence. Coordinating across international boundaries was unique. That’s not something we experience every day. We were able to eventually get in contact with a division group supervisor and assist in linking the plans together.”

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