Life at a wildfire camp

Chelsea Powrie

Hundreds of BC Wildfire Service crew members are calling tents and portables pitched at the Oliver Airport home while they battle the Eagle Bluff blaze.

It's far from luxury, but the welcome they have received from the community and their shared commitment to firefighting has kept morale high. 

"From the time you wake up, everybody is just smiling and saying good morning and waving at each other," said service branch director Natasha Lewis. "Whether you're a morning person or not. I'm definitely not a morning person!"

The makeshift camp has been set up at the airport for roughly a week. These types of on-site camps get set up near wildfires that are expected to need attention for longer than five days.

Many of the crew members are happy that this particular camp is so close to the Town of Oliver and its amenities, since they can sometimes be deployed to the middle of nowhere.

The community has rallied around their firefighter guests, bringing donations from the heart. 

"Pies, cookies, squares, people just wanting to volunteer their time," said Chris Fraser, head chef at the camp. "It's been real good to see the community kick in together and support one another, fantastic actually."

Fraser oversees feeding the hundreds of hungry firefighters every day from his kitchen in a portable unit, parked in the blazing heat near the tent city that houses the crews. It's no easy task. 

"I think we're at about 275 for tonight's service, and that's running three hot services every day, which includes breakfast, hot lunch and dinner," Fraser told Castanet on Tuesday, adding that they also provide a bagged lunch program for the firefighters and helicopter pilots out in the field.

"It's 24/7, it's been busy. And of course we're out in the elements, and that can be a challenge as well."

Living at the camp tends to build plenty of camaraderie between the crew members. Multiple crew members told Castanet that while offers for lodging had poured in from the surrounding area, many firefighters prefer to stay in the camp. 

The crews make sure to celebrate their victories as they come. 

"So whether that's getting a good line put in, or whether that's just a day of the fire not moving, it's really just all the small things that make the group come together to form a big happy family here at the fire," Lewis said. 

The Eagle Bluff wildfire is still listed as "out of control." Lewis said she anticipates being on site at the Oliver Airport camp for another five to seven days. 

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