Opinion: 2021 is a very different fire season

'2021 is different'

My name is Kyle Young and I am an Incident Commander with the BC Wildfire Service. I am writing this post rather than sharing a video message because, frankly, it would be too emotional for me. I am someone that ground crews, my kids, and many other people, look up to for guidance through these challenging seasons. I have been doing this job for 16 years. I am a third generation wildland firefighter, following my father and grandfather. I have a long history within this organization and the love I have for this job is what drives me every day, along with the support I receive from my family and co-workers.

This season we have been tested and we have done everything possible to ensure people are safe. I understand there are other opinions out there that might not agree with that sentiment, but please know, from someone who has only been able to spend six days with his family since June 30th, I can attest to the dedication from every single person who is employed on these fires.

2021 is different from previous years. We aren’t getting the resources we usually would from other jurisdictions due to the immense fire danger across Canada and the United States. Then you throw a global pandemic on top of it, which has impacted how we are able to manage fires and the resources we have available to draw from. We show up to do our best but at the end of the day, we are humans and Mother Nature has the power. We need to allow her to do what she needs to do all while keeping everyone safe.

Again, I understand not everyone is going to agree with this message and I get it, but please know that I am proud of the effort everyone in the organization, the contractors, partners, and anyone else supporting us are making. The sacrifices to do this job are ultimately driven by passion, empathy, courage, and a huge amount of integrity. My family, along with hundreds of others, have sacrificed a lot in order for us to go out and help the people of British Columbia. We understand the choices we have made in our career. I promise you it is not taken lightly by any of us and we feel proud to be part of this organization.

At the end of each grueling day, I wonder if everyone is okay. Not only on the incident I’m managing, but those working on other incidents, along with those deeply affected by the devastating wildfires. I wonder if I could have done something different, something better. I wonder what tomorrow will bring, will it rain, will I be able to see my family soon, or will I open social media and be inundated with posts from people who speculate on what we do, or worse, what they think we don’t do. This season will pass and then everyone can ask questions, we will make adjustments, and we will reflect on what we learned this season.

Right now, it’s time for us, as a province, to come together and support each other. Help us, help your neighbors, help everyone get through the next six weeks of what has been the most challenging summer. It is also the time to remind yourself that when you post something out of anger, frustration, fear, or heartbreak, there are other families out there feeling all those same things and reading your words that may be hurtful. Please be kind, stay calm, and know that the BC Wildfire Service is fighting for British Columbia’s safety every single day.

As an incident commander, Kyle Young leads an incident management team, which is a diverse group of skilled personnel dedicated to managing complex wildfire events. The incident management team helps to relieve pressure from local fire centres and zones, allowing them to focus their response on new fire starts. So far this season, Kyle’s team has responded to the Mckay Creek fire near Lillooet, the 100 Mile Northeast complex and they are currently deployed to the Shuswap where they are managing 24 wildfires, including six wildfires of note. Kyle is based in Kamloops, and when he isn’t actively fighting fires he is working on staff development and training the next generation of wildland firefighters.

(shared from BCWS social media channels)

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