I had the privilege of meeting some really nice people last week. It started with a state of emergency.
My fellow volunteer firefighters from Delisle and I were called out to provide “mutual aid” at 4:45 a.m. on April 23 to assist the Biggar Fire Department with an out-of-control wildfire southwest of town.
Winds were howling and, even worse, changing direction.
By the time we arrived at the incident command centre with two trucks, a command vehicle and 11 firefighters at about 7 a.m., the situation was not looking good.
We were tasked with going to the fire’s western flank along Duperow Road and attacking hot spots and preventing the fire from igniting brush the winds had quickly pushed it through earlier.
It was an amazing collection of firefighters and apparatus, and the largest fire scene I’ve ever been involved with in more than 10 years as a volunteer firefighter.
My colleagues and I were even among the first to get to use the provincial government’s relatively new SEAT (Single Engine Air Tanker) program on a working fire, and that was cool to see in action.
But the most amazing thing that became readily apparent once we were on-scene was the kindness and generosity of the community, whose members couldn’t do enough to keep us supplied with water, Gatorade, fruit, sandwiches, fuel and anything else we could possibly need.
At one point we needed a lighter to start a backburn (surprisingly, despite all the flame around us, no one had the means to actually start a fire) so one of our team went up the road to the Duperow Co-op.
The co-op didn’t have lighters, but they gave us a whole box of match books free of charge. Anything they could do to help.
From the Biggar Fire Department member who constantly drove around in his white half-ton delivering meals, to firefighters in the field, to the young man who simply wanted to “leave some bottled water for the boys” outside the command trailer (he left about 100 dozen bottles), the community was looking after the firefighters every bit as aggressively as the firefighters were fighting the fire.
They may have lost some pristine prairie habitat and some beloved community trails, but the people of Biggar and the surrounding community have a spirit and a willingness to help that is unbeatable. They’re going to be just fine.