Military marches into Princeton BC and lends hand to firefighters

“Our job is to be that second line of support.”

The Canadian Armed Forces marched into Princeton BC Friday afternoon to establish a camp for approximately 110 soldiers who are backing up the efforts of the BC Wildfire Service.

The personnel are assigned to mop up duties on the Cool Creek fire, which is burning out of control 20 km northeast of Eastgate.

“Our job is to be that second line of support,” said Major James Anderson, commanding officer.

“We are soldiers not firefighters…but I can roll up a hose if you show me how to roll up a hose.”

Soldiers were previous stationed near Merritt, and have worked on the Gottfriedsen Mountain and Juliet Creek fires.

The military’s contribution allows firefighters to address more aggressive areas of the blaze, according to Noelle Kekula, BC Wildfire information officer.

“They are helping us with mopping up and patrolling and it’s just more boots on the ground to help us increase the black line around that fire,” she said.

“There’s a job for every firefighter out there so it will definitely free us up so we can put our BC resources in other areas.”

Cool Creek is measured at 12,685 hectares and took suppression crews by surprise Thursday with increased activity.

Related: Seasonal cabins threatened by Cool Creek blaze

“[Fire] columns started interacting and building off of each other. Fire creates its own wind and its own environment. We saw behaviour in all sites of the fire,” said Kekula.

“The good news is that it still stayed within our planned boundary, our planned control area. It did challenge us in areas and it did jump a few guards that we had, but it’s still in our bigger planned area where we are expecting it to go.”

Friday there were 106 firefighters and other personnel actioning the blaze, supported by heavy equipment.

Tents were rising quickly Friday afternoon at the Ground Search and Rescue property located adjacent to the Princeton airport.

Anderson said Princeton may be home to the armed forces for two to three weeks.

“The soldiers are not confined to camp, so you will be seeing some folks in town.”

Related: B.C. ends state of emergency, 485 wildfires still burning

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Major James Anderson, commanding officer. Photo Andrea DeMeer

Soldiers may be in Princeton for two to three weeks, and will be visiting town. Photo Andrea DeMeer

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