Firefighter in the Field: The Other Side of Wildland Firefighting

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By: Natalie, Helitack Member, Calgary Forest Area

We talk a lot about battling wildfires and the long days on the fireline. What about the other side of being a wildland firefighter? When we are not chasing down smoke calls, what else are we doing? Let me tell you about all the projects we have on the go! This winter I had an opportunity to work in the Calgary Fire Centre in the wildfire prevention section. After working so many seasons in the field it was a great experience working in the office and being able to be a part of working alongside communities, educating and delivering wildfire prevention programs. Making it possible for Albertans to live and work in a healthy forest.

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This past March we were able to do some hazard reduction burning, this is always a high priority during the spring, as the grass is very dry and flammable, making it very easy to ignite and spread. As a wildfire management organization we put together plans to burn certain areas that are at a higher risk of wildfires. We then come in and burn in a controlled setting with trained personnel. For example, pictures below show the team working with the Summer Village of Waiparous to do some hazard reduction burning in the community. The burn was a huge success, promoting education and awareness to the community and public. The Waiparous area sees a high volume of people travel through for summer activities in the forest.

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Another great tool to prevent wildfires and to promote safer communities within the Forest Protection Area is FireSmart. What is FireSmart? FireSmart helps protect homes and communities from the threat of a wildfire. FireSmart uses preventative measures to reduce wildfire threat to communities while still balancing the benefits of wildfire on the landscape. To learn more about FireSmart check out their website for more information on how you can help your community!

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We are currently FireSmarting the Ghost Fire Base in the Calgary Forest Area. Our objective is vegetation management by reducing the amount and continuity of volatile fuel, to manage this we thin out and remove dense forest sections. The outcome of this will lower the intensity and spread rates of a wildfire! Hard work done by all the crews and it is looking great, definitely some future running trails now that it is a bit more opened up!

Patrolling is a big part of the job, patrolling can include checking campgrounds to helicopter patrol through the skies. We can’t stress enough the need to properly extinguish your campfire. We can’t control the lightning, but we can do our part and reduce the amount of human cause wildfires. To date we have had 115 abandoned campfires in the Calgary Forest Area. Below is a picture of Alexis extinguishing an abandoned campfire that is still very hot from over the long weekend! As you can see surrounding us is vast amounts of forest. This picture was taken in Kananaskis Country.
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Lastly, meet the Elbow Junior Forest Rangers, my crew had a chance to work with these awesome bunch of ladies one afternoon! We went over our daily routine as a wildfire helitack crew from pump operations to hose lays. Recruiting some future helitack members! For more information about the Junior Forest Ranger Program check out their Facebook page!

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Thanks Alberta! Let’s keep working together to promote healthy green forests!! Call 310-FIRE to report all wildfires!

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