The glow of flames lighting up the night amid the thick of wildfire season left Armstrong residents on high alert Tuesday.
A fire on Hullcar Road was sparked shortly after 9 p.m. July 20. The blaze, in a 50-foot-tall pile of sawdust at a feedlot, was easily seen across the community.
“From a distance, it looked like it was running up the mountain,” Armstrong Spallumcheen fire chief Ian Cummings said.
While the fire spread into some nearby grass, it was quickly contained, by not just firefighters.
“Fantastic assistance by the owners and the neighbours and the community out there,” Cummings said.
The cause, Cummings said, is most likely spontaneous combustion.
Crews were on scene for approximately five hours ensuring the fire was out.
They were also tasked with another fire almost simultaneously.
“Within 10 minutes after that Hullcar fire came in and we got called out to a car fire on Saint Annes Road.”
Since Armstrong Spallumcheen firefighters had a bigger blaze on their hands, they enlisted the help of the neighbouring BX-Swan Lake Fire Department.
“It just shows how valuable our mutual aid agreement is,” said Cummings, grateful for BX for showing up.
This time of year is particularly challenging for crews, who are often feeling burnout.
“That’s a huge problem. We get so many calls right now,” Cummings said. “None of us have enough resources.”
While a bad structure fire might take up six, seven or more hours of a department, a bad wildfire can go a week or more.
“All these guys and girls, most of them have full-time jobs,” said Cummings, as the volunteer members are paid per call attended.
The mental toll of attending emotionally charged situations also wears on emergency crews, he said.
“It does start to build up on you after a while,” said Cummings.