High school teachers, business owners, paramedics, students – they are people from all walks of life.
Also, they are soldiers.
The 150 army personnel who occupied a camp in Princeton this week – assigned to back up BC Wildfire Service and provide mop up for the Cool Creek fire – are reservists.
And they volunteered to come.
“They give up their jobs. They go away from their families. Some of them, they use their holiday pay to go help out,” said spokesman Graeme Kaine. “It sounds hokey, but there are still a lot of people that just want to help.”
There are approximately 1,500 army reserve members in British Columbia, making up one of three Western Canada brigades, explained Kaine.
When the provincial government made its official request for assistance a call was put out to all members, and they travelled from as a far away as Thunder Bay, Ontario to respond.
They got here by bus, some of them spending two days on the road.
“I think it’s just great when all these people across Western Canada come to support us, as we would do for them,” said Kaine.
Reservists take the same basic training as regular forces, and they are paid. They are required to work at least one day a week, and one weekend a month, and they can choose to accept or decline deployment.
According to Kaine the reserve units offer a unique compliment to the regular service, as they are populated by men and women with varied and often non-military backgrounds.
Major Vincent Virk was the Officer Commanding [OC] of the Princeton camp, which was named Camp Allison after a soldier from Princeton’s founding family who died in the First World War.
Virk is from North Vancouver and Osoyoos, where he owns a business. He has been in the service for 16 years. “I do this just because I wanted to do something for my country, and to give back a little,” he told The Spotlight. ” I wanted to do it and I just love it, and I love the people I’m working with. We always love a challenge.”
Private Bennett, from North Saskatchewan, had just finished his basic training when he learned of the request for assistance.
“As soon as my sergeant asked me I immediately said yes, along with two fellow reservists from my unit. We’ve just been having a great time out here helping the people of British Columbia.”
At least two of the army boots on the ground fighting fires in the past week were very familiar with the terrain.
Sabrina Boechler is a full-time paramedic in Vancouver, who started her career in Princeton and lived here for two years.
“It’s really nice to get back to the community I started in and help them out.”
While Camp Allison was expected to run for two to three weeks, after just eight days BC Wildfire had situations enough under control so that the reservists could go back to their day jobs.
“Everyone back at work Monday morning,” said Kaine.
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