Hello from your Dispatcher in Edson
The role of Wildfire Dispatcher is a diverse one! Dispatchers are responsible for taking appropriate actions to move, place or direct resources to a wildfire. Their goal is to ensure that wildfire situations are handled as efficiently and safely as possible. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry has 60 dispatchers positioned across the province to move, place or direct resources to wildfires as needed.
The 2017 wildfire season has started quietly in the Edson Forest Area, much like it has across the province. By the middle of May, we had seen just seven wildfires in our area. One important thing a slow start gives us is the chance to get caught up on training as we get back into the swing of things.
Although the season hasn’t picked up here yet, the current conditions have allowed both those out in the field and those of us in the duty room to practice our skills and ensure we are all ready for warmer and dryer conditions as the season progresses. As a dispatcher, the most important aspect of my position is ensuring that the people working out in the field are safe and that they’re where they need to be. Situational awareness plays a huge part in this line of work. Each day, we’re responsible for keeping track of numerous resources as they’re called in and out of the field, including aircraft flying in, or through, our Forest Area.
When some ideal conditions arrived in early May, our prevention staff and some of our crew members were able to successfully complete a hazard reduction burn. Hazardous reduction burns are a type of prescribed fire that is used to burn off the buildup of heavy, matted, dry grass and other fine fuels. By burning the grass in the spring, we can mitigate the risk of a wildfire starting and spreading into the nearby forest. It was also a great opportunity for some real life wildfire training for crew members.
In the duty room, we have been busy making sure we are prepared for any large fires or multi-start situations. Three of our dispatchers, myself included, recently participated in a multi-start simulation. Jumping into this simulation helped us focus on some areas where we can improve and gave us a chance to practice a multi-start scenario before it actually happens.
Although we ended up getting some real detections and fire starts that interrupted the simulation, we were eventually able to introduce our newest dispatcher to a multi-start scenario. That gave her a taste of how busy both data entry and radio traffic can become when things pick up.
Being a wildfire dispatcher is extremely important and it’s a position I really enjoy. Whatever happens from here on out, you can be sure that we will continue to prepare for whatever comes our way!