Fire Chief Brad Milton and FireSmart team member Gerri Bird with Engine 1 at the downtown hall in Hudson’s Hope.Tom Summer/Alaska Highway News

Original Published 11:24 Apr 25, 2022

By Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative

Sixty homes have been assessed for fire risks so far in Hudson’s Hope as members of the local fire department continue outreach and education efforts to prevent wildfires in the community.

FireSmart team member Gerri Bird says the program has been well received by the community, with assessments identifying safety improvements and fire prevention measures for homeowners. Info sessions were hosted by the team all last month, in addition to door-to-door visits and posts on social media. 

“It’s been good, but it takes time to get the information out to the people, and get people to understand why it’s necessary, and exactly what needs to be done,” Bird said. “But there’s been a lot of curiosity for it.”

Members hope to close out the year with 100 assessments. A wildfire preparedness day is also being planned for May 7 as part of emergency preparedness week, with residents invited to visit with local firefighters for a friendly conversation on how to reduce wildfire risks.

“It’s brought good awareness to the community,” Fire Chief Brad Milton said. “I’ve had a lot of questions on vacant properties or different areas about getting grass cut or getting something fixed. That awareness has made people rethink their own properties and be bettered prepared for a wildfire.”

Milton said last summer was a challenging one for firefighters across B.C., and that he was happy to lend aid, sending members south to assist with fires near Vernon.

“Wildfire season is always on our mind,” he said. “We’re always training, preparing, double checking all of equipment to make sure that we’re ready.”

Milton says he’s greatly enjoyed his first 15 months with the district, and is excited to continue serving the community, with recruits sought for both the downtown and Beryl Prairie fire halls.

“Things have been a little bit slower this year, which is great; it means that people are being safe. Covid has definitely kept a lot of people at home, which has kept our call volume down,” said Milton, “but we’re always watching for the fire season, and that’s where our FireSmart team has been diligent in getting that information out for everybody.”

While two adult members are currently undergoing training to join the department, Milton said the district’s junior firefighter program was hugely successful this year, with 11 candidates putting their names forward from the local school.

“We’re always looking for members to come on, the more the merrier,” he said, noting the department typically has around 24 to 25 members.

“Some challenges you can have in a fire department is the recruitment aspect, especially in smaller communities, retention can also be an issue sometimes, with members that have spent twenty years on the department and are getting ready to retire.”

new command truck is also being considered for the department, once district council reviews the item with community input. The unit could be used to service incidents such as the Mt. Lemoray fire and improve firefighters ability to get into hard to reach rural areas and backroads.  

“With our rural position, if we run into a forest service road or a farmer’s field, something like a street engine is just too big to go into those fields where the ground may be soft,” Milton said. “We have a lot of ground to cover, with large acreages, so a smaller truck would really help us to position our attacks and prevent a fire from spreading.” 

This item reprinted with permission from Alaska Highway News, Fort St. John, British Columbia