Saskatchewan firefighters headed to Northwest Territories

Jodi Schellenberg
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As the fires in the Northwest Territories continue to rage on, Saskatchewan is sending more help to fight them.

A group of about 40 firefighters gathered at the Provincial Wildfire Centre, located north of Prince Albert, to get packed and ready to fly out.

“We are going to Yellowknife -- we are flying there today -- and we will deployed wherever they need us from there,” said Wes Boehr, forest protection officer for the La Ronge South End Fire Base. “Our policy is that we can spend 14 days on the line once we get there, so once we are deployed it will be 14 days of firefighting.”

He is unsure how many of the men and women have been up there before to fight the forest fires reeking havoc in the Northwest Territories.

One of the new recruits for this mission was Jeremy Hawkins, who has worked as a firefighter in Saskatchewan for six years.

“I’m kind of nervous and excited at the same time,” Hawkins said. “I’m hoping to see a lot and get a lot of experience out of it. I just hope for the best.”

Boehr said that the firefighters headed up north think it is a privilege to help.

“They are very highly trained and they want to fight fire so when we are not busy to be able to go help out our friends and neighbours, it is definitely an honour,” he said.

Since it is his first time up in the Northwest Territories, Hawkins is hoping to learn a lot more than he has at home.

“I have six years in experience but I haven’t been on really big fires like this so whoever I am with has probably experience and I’ll be learning from them and getting more experience there while I’m on the fire,” he said.

He isn’t too concerned about safety, since the crews are well trained and he is sure they will all work together well.

“I’m sure it will be fine -- I’ll be aware of my surroundings and safeties,” Hawkins said. “We always go by LACES which means lookouts, anchor points, communications and safety zones.”

Boehr also isn’t anticipating too much of a problem once they get to Yellowknife.

“The biggest challenge is trying to get integrated with them, try to find out what they want us to do,” he said. “Once it gets to the actual firefighting, it is pretty much the same work across the country. The challenge is in getting there and getting set up.”

Luckily, the Saskatchewan crews haven’t had too many large fires in their home province this year.

“We had a number of fires in my area that kept us busy in the spring and early summer so our year has been steady,” Boehr said. “My area had the Stanley Fire, so that kept us busy through the end of May into early June. We have had some fires further north in our observation zone, but not near our communities we have had to deal with.”

Organizations: Provincial Wildfire Centre, La Ronge South End Fire Base

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories, Yellowknife

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