British Columbia·Feature

Tour the command node: Kamloops centre tirelessly coordinates fire response

The place is abuzz as firefighters stream in and out, constantly loading up trucks as metres away planes take off to put out more flames.

It has been non-stop at the home base for firefighters and dispatchers across south central B.C.

Firefighters stream in and out of the Kamloops Fire Centre's garage, unloading their trucks after fighting tirelessly on the front lines before handing off to the next crew and the next call.

"Just making sure we're fresh, ready to go and trucks are all loaded," said Adam Buchanan, who has been fighting fires for seven years in Kamloops. 

So far, he's been busy responding to smaller fires, making sure they're under control before the flames cause more devastation. 

The command node is close to the airport and it's where all the coordination happens for the region.

The province is divided into six regional fire centres and the Kamloops area runs from Blue River in the north to the U.S. border in the south and from Bridge River in the west to the Monashee Mountains in the east.

A shift schedule has been worked out now, but the first few days were hectic, as crews tried to get a grip on the tremendous fires across the province. 

"It isn't until you jump in the truck that you realize how sore your feet are, how sweaty you are and how hungry you are. It's good our bodies are able to forget about that," said Buchanan. 

"Adrenaline keeps us going." 

Outside the garage, mountains of hoses are boxed, ready to be used by firefighters in Kamloops or transferred to other centres in need of more equipment. 

Ringing off the hook

Just next door is where you will find logistics, planning, chainsaw experts, and dozens of dispatchers, whose phones have been ringing off the hook. 

"People have been working anywhere from 12 hour days to even longer than that, even 15, 16 hour days," said fire informaton officer Max Birkner.

It has been so hectic there are two dispatchers sharing a desk, while in other cases a second person is stationed next to dispatchers who are in their first fire season.

"For their first fire season to see the very unusual situation that is going on with all these huge fires we've been having is very good and interesting training experience," he said.