A BC Wildfire Services crew dangles from a hovering helicopter during a training exercise held at Qualicum Beach Airport on April 3. — Michael Briones photo

Vancouver Island hosts training exercise ahead of coming wildfire season

Firefighters practise entering and exiting a hovering helicopter

Members of the BC Wildfire Service engaged in a helicopter hover-exit exercise at Qualicum Beach Airport on Wednesday, April 3.

The session was a training certfication exercise, conducted every year in preparation for the coming fire season. It involves members learing to enter and exit a helicopter as it hovers above the ground.

“We do this every year to recertify for the helicopter operations we need to do on wildfires,” said TJ Hamre, a forest firefighter for eight years and one of the program trainers.

READ MORE: B.C. fire department offers tips to keep your home safe during wildfire season

READ MORE: Crews fighting 250-hectare wildfire near Kamloops

Hamre said those involved are all excited to resume training and assist new recruits.

Last year was the worst fire season on record in British Columbia. Between April 2018 and March 2019 there were 2,112 wildfires, torching 1.3 million hectares of land. Roughly 40 per cent of fires are human-caused each year.

Hamre said the hovering exit training exercise is important as it is always the last resort to get to a remote location when there’s no other option for any sort of landing.

Before the crews and new recruits did the actual exercise, they went through a thorough briefing and held mock entrances and exits.

Michael.Briones@pqbnews.com

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