Battling the Smith Creek Fire on the ground

Smith Creek Fire firefighters Jakob Sparks (right) and Josh Fuder.  - Barry Gerding/Capital News
Smith Creek Fire firefighters Jakob Sparks (right) and Josh Fuder.
— image credit: Barry Gerding/Capital News

It's hot, dusty, physically demanding and often dangerous work fighting a fire, but it's the efforts of the forest service firefighters on the ground that will ultimately bring the Smith Creek Fire under control.

Josh Fuder, from Salmo working on a three-man firefighting crew Saturday near the BC Hydro power line, described his experience for the past 48 hours as "a little bit hot but good long days."

"We've put in 14-hour days here but it's important to get in a good breakfast at the start and keep drinking water because you sweat a lot," he said.

Fuder said you can literally melt your workboots if you aren't paying attention and slip into a hot spot below the ground surface.

"A lot of it is about keeping your head up and alert as safety is important," Fuder said. "It seems like you are always heading uphill, running hose lines and making sure the hose valves are operating properly. Even when you do get to go downhill you know you'll be heading back uphill again."

He said when his crew arrived at the BC Hydro power line fireguard this morning, they were greeted by a flareup right off the start, as a tree caught on fire and started candling.

"The three of us ran up to it right away and managed to soak it down. We got ahead of it but that is one of the dangers for us. There are hot spots everywhere. It's a forest fire so you have to be aware of the dangers."

Jakob Sparks, from Nelson who works on Fuder's crew along with crew leader Eric Koppe, reiterated that fatigue is an important factor for firefighters working to build up the fireguards.

"You have to be in good shape, you have to understand yourself. It's taxing carrying the weight we do from water and equipment and you are sweating all the time," he explained. "You have to remember to drink a lot of water to avoid fatigue."

Koppe, who is from also from Nelson, said high winds can be challenging for firefighters.

"There is heat, smoke and embers to be aware of all the time," he said. "And falling trees are also a big danger when the fire has burned through an area. The choppers are flying overhead dropping loads and the radio is constantly going with instructions being passed on or the crews being redeployed along the fire line.

"You have to have the skills to be able to do this. It's a big challenge."





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