Hoses, beer and cigarettes: B.C. firefighters welcome care packages from Fort McMurray

Fort McMurray residents have been quietly sending supplies to volunteer firefighters in the forests of British Columbia.

'There were boxes of hoses that came off the Fort Mac truck and went ... right out into the bush'

Fort McMurray has sent more than just food and hygiene supplies to B.C. wildfire victims. The community has rallied to send fuel and firefighting equipment. (McLeese Lake Fire Department)

Ian Hicks calls them his "Fort Mac Angels."

Just when his all-volunteer fire department in the Cariboo region of B.C.'s Interior needed help fighting a raging brush fire, help arrived on a truck from Fort McMurray.

"There were boxes of hoses that came off the Fort Mac truck and went right onto the fire truck and right out into the bush," said Hicks, president of the McLeese Lake Fire Department.

"From the time we got them from the Fort Mac guys to the time they were spraying water was a matter of two hours," he said.

Over the last two weeks, Fort McMurray has been sending pickup trucks and tractor trailers filled with food, water and hygiene products to B.C. wildfire victims. But some of the volunteers have also been sending gear for volunteer firefighters who say they don't have enough equipment to fight the fires.

"Even the small communities, their budget isn't equipped to deal with this," said Marty Frost, one of the main organizers leading the Fort McMurray donation effort.

'Beer for the first responders'

British Columbia is in the midst of battling hundreds of active wildfires that have so far displaced 45,000 people.

The conditions mirror last summer's Fort McMurray wildfire, which forced more than 80,000 people to flee their homes.

With the Fort McMurray wildfire still in the minds of many residents, ad hoc donation centres began popping up in the city. 

Frost said they have so far sent fire retardant clothing, foam, shovels, axes, hoses, backpack pumps and fuel. The B.C. communities of McLeese Lake, Tyee Lake and Horsefly have been recipients of this aid.

Fort McMurray volunteers and the McLeese Lake Fire Department pose for a picture after delivering donated items. (McLeese Lake Fire Department)

Some of these items have been donated, others have been purchased with donated cash.

"We basically cleaned out all the supply companies in Fort McMurray and took everything they had," Frost said.

Frost is a trained firefighter and even jumped in to help when the flames encircled Fort McMurray in 2016. He is credited with stopping the wildfire from marching through the downtown when he commandeered an abandoned backhoe and created a fire break, stopping the flames from spreading further. 

Frost also said volunteers have also thought of the little things for B.C's firefighters as well.

Fort McMurray residents drop off donations destined for wildfire victims in British Columbia. (David Thurton/CBC)

"A lot of people donated cigarettes on the fire line," Frost said. "We sent in some beer for the first responders. We figure it would be nice after a long hard day on the fire line."

Follow David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitter or contact him via email.