Forty Yukon firefighters board a C-131 military aircraft bound for Kamloops on Aug. 16. (Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services)

Forty Yukon firefighters board a C-131 military aircraft bound for Kamloops on Aug. 16. (Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services)

Forty Yukon firefighters deploy to Okanagan wildfires

The 40-person crew will fight fires near Princeton and West Kelowna

Forty Yukon firefighters landed in British Columbia to support wildfire response in the Okanagan.

“I’m really excited for all personnel going down there to showcase their skills and I’m very confident in the abilities of the folks we sent down,” said Chad Thomas, CEO of Yukon First Nations Wildfire, on Aug. 17.

Twenty-two of the firefighters are from Yukon First Nations Wildfire. The remainder are from Yukon ​​Wildland Fire Management.

The Yukon crew flew to Kamloops in a C-131 military aircraft with the Royal Canadian Airforce on Aug. 16. They are on a 19-day deployment, with 14 days active on the fire line.

The fighters were deployed to the Garrison Lake and Mount Law fires after a provincial briefing in Kamloops.

The Garrison Lake fire is a 14,000-hectare blaze burning southwest of Princeton, B.C. About 200 properties in the area were evacuated on Aug. 15.

The 200-hectare Mount Law fire near West Kelowna is burning around 800 hectares, with 460 properties now evacuated.

According to Thomas, Yukon’s firefighters are prepared for the chaotic scene that awaits them.

“It’s one of those types of things where … you get excited, because you’re getting to use your skills that you trained for,” Thomas said. “There’s a lot of adrenaline going, there’s a lot of excitement.”

Yukon’s firefighters are part of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre network, which means crews are available to help at the request of neighbouring provinces or territories.

Since the Yukon has a shorter fire season, this trip is a good opportunity to continue working, Thomas continued.

“I know from my experience, this is one of the better times you could be a part of, because we have such a short season here in the territory, so when you get to go down south and get more tools for the toolbox, and broaden your horizons a bit, it’s great for our folks,” Thomas said.

Thomas explained that the regular season for Yukon First Nations Wildfire usually ends on Aug. 13. Its regular seasonal contract with the Yukon government was extended in case B.C. requested help or local flooding worsened.

“I’m really proud of them – it was a great thing to see them sent off,” Thomas said.

The Okanagan area has been on alert for several weeks as raging fires burn approximately 805,500 total hectares of land. There are 260 active fires as of Aug. 17, with 3,600 personnel battling them. Approximately 500 of those fighters travelled to B.C. from outside the province.

– With files from the Summerland Review and Kelowna Capital News

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at