‘Casa Vernon,’ as BC Wildfire Services logistics section chief Cian Carroll calls it, is the temporary home for 330 firefighters and personnel on the frontlines of the White Rock Lake wildfire burning out of control at around 58,000 hectares.
And more resources are on their way.
BCWS said Thursday, Aug. 12, about 40 firefighters from Alberta and more than 100 from Quebec are being deployed to help fight fires in the province.
Firefighters work between 14- and 16-hour days during their 14-day deployment, Carroll said, with a minimum of eight hours off between shifts.
“All crews stay in their tents and try to make it as comfortable as possible,” he said, noting a lot of these crew members are experienced, or “old hand” and can be pretty creative in what they pack to make their stay as luxurious as possible, like USB fans.
The camp at the Kin Race Track, complete with washroom and shower trailers, laundry services, air-conditioned offices and COVID-19 isolation units is capable of being self-sustainable with its own septic, propane and water.
“We’ve been very lucky and it goes back again to how cooperative the City of Vernon has been, we’ve been able to do some things where we’re running off the city’s water and septic which has made life incredibly easier,” Carroll said.
Safety and cleanliness is top of mind amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the BCWS provides sanitization and handwashing stations throughout the camp, including dining areas.
Carroll said several rapid tests have been administered but no one has tested positive at the camp.
“We’re really putting a lot of effort into keeping it that way,” he said.
On the corner of a high-traffic area in Vernon, Carroll said catching some shut-eye hasn’t been too challenging.
“Consistent noise is a lot easier to get used to than sudden noise,” he said. “It’s like white noise. Like a fan blowing in your room.”
Residents, though, continue to ask if they can donate prepared meals or goods to the fire camp.
Fire information officer Taylor MacDonald said although the gesture is appreciated BCWS crews are well looked after.
“Those donations are best made to to the evacuees and those emergency evacuee centres,” MacDonald said. “Those people are out of their homes and have nothing to prepare those meals.”
She said the best way to show support for the firefighters is with a sign of support.
Thank-you signs have already started popping up on the fence along 43rd Avenue, as well as a neighbouring resident’s fenceline.
Other residents plan to show their appreciation by waving and making some noise for firefighters coming back to the camp from the corner of Old Kamloops Road and Goose Lake Road between 6 and 7:30 p.m.