Further to your editorial Oct. 21 regarding Rapattack, I would like to add my comments. I was responsible for the introduction of the Rapattack crew in 1977 at a remote Ranger station at Mile 620 of the Alaska Highway known as Lower Post.
The introduction of this specialized unit was to afford quick attack and control of lightning-caused fires which were growing to larger and more expensive fires due to the lack of helicopter landing spots.
In 1980, it was decided to move the crew to a location where greater benefits could be achieved. A study of suitable areas was conducted and it was determined that the best results could be achieved in the mountainous and lightning-prone areas around Salmon Arm and Vernon.
The benefits of immediate access to these heretofore inaccessible lightning fires soon became apparent and the crew was enlarged to 12 three-person crews. Over a 10-year period, the reduction in hectares lost and costs incurred was shown to be significant.
In order for the unit to operate at a high level of efficiency and achievement, it was apparent that housing the unit at the helicopter base would lead to consistently quick dispatch.
As soon as one crew was dispatched, another could be immediately brought to red alert and so on.
Trying to maintain this readiness capability is just not possible if crews are housed in private accommodation in the surrounding towns, even if they can find it.
The costs to be saved in eliminating accommodation are insignificant compared to the costs of a major fire resulting from delayed attack. The containment costs involved in larger fires are all too often in the million dollar bracket.
Even fires that escape into the 10 or 20-hectare bracket invariably lead to expenses in the many thousands of dollars, far exceeding any savings to be achieved in reducing accommodation cost.
Eliminating minor accommodation costs is what my Scottish mother would call, “penny wise, pound foolish.”
Jim Dunlop, director (retired)
Forest Protection Branch