Chu Chua Volunteer Fire Department (FB photo with permission)

Chu Chua Volunteer Fire Chief asks for crew accommodationsExpanding crew with eight new members from out of province

In a post on social media on July 17, Chu Chua Fire Chief Ron Lampreau from Simpcw First Nation put out a call to residents in Barriere, Chu Chua and Simpcw First Nation communities, asking for temporary housing accommodations for incoming additional fire crew members until the end of the summer.

In a conversation with Black Press, Lampreau said “We are looking to expand our Indigenous Initial Attack Crew, but the hurdle we are finding is that there is zero accommodations in Barriere and Chu Chua. Recently we posted on Facebook requesting support from both Barriere and Simpcw First Nation for possible accommodations to house additional crew members coming to us from other parts of Canada.

“I’m happy to say that some homeowners put their names forward and we have obtained at least one home board situation. We have flown in a new crew member from Moncton, New Brunswick who has already passed his Wildland Fire Fighter FIT Test. He’ll take his additional tests next week. We are super excited to have him join our team and he’s equally excited to be here.”

Lampreau said this new crew member now makes four additional team members for the Indigenous Attack Crew. Their need is for another four additional members.

“We are super happy with the family he’s with and he is happy also,” said Lampreau. “It’s a good fit. We are grateful that they reached out. He told us that he’d love to stay if possible.”

Lampreau expressed major concerns on July 21 about the three most serious fires in the area. Speaking of the Adams Lake – Bush Creek fire and the lower Adams fire, he said “Both of those are large in scale and have a potential to get bigger and could threaten the community.

“The third fire, the Kostal Cone Lake fire in Wells Gray Park: I’m not so worried about that fire threatening the community. However, given the amount of fuel in the bush there, the government is just monitoring it because it’s too dangerous to fight. Simpcw has lots of culturally sensitive areas in Wells Gray Park. The fact that it’s basically ‘unfightable’ is very concerning.

“With the amount of fuel, and given that there was a spruce bud worm epidemic that went through there a couple of years ago, the amount of standing dead spruce makes it almost indefensible. No logging happens in the park, so here we are with a wildfire that could potentially burn until the end of September. We really need to get ahead of prevention and mitigation, become more proactive and do some selective logging or forest fuel reduction projects within our provincial and national parks. Currently none of that is happening.”

The Simpcw Indigenous Initial Attack Crew has been fighting fires since the start of July, and Lampreau says that the Chu Chua Volunteer Fire Department is ready to deploy if needed.

“Our Simpcw Emergency Management team is fully prepared for an emergency, and ready to deploy if our community becomes at risk in an emergency.”

Lampreau also commented on the working partnership between Barriere and the Simpcw/Chu Chua departments, and wanted to reassure residents in the North Thompson and Wells Gray Country that partnerships of mutual aid are well established should anything occur that requires immediate protective action.

“There could come a time when Barriere sends out a bush truck to assist at a fire in another part of the province, and in that case our teams would step in to assist, backing up Barriere when needed. We have very good communication between the two VFDs and keep each other informed.”