By Chuck Chiang
A firefighter has been killed in northeastern British Columbia, marking the second such fatality in the province this month and the fourth in Canada during this year’s record fire season.
A release from the RCMP says the 25-year-old man from Ontario was working Friday just before 11 a.m. in a remote area about 150 kilometres north of Fort St. John when his heavy-duty ATV rolled over a steep drop on a gravel road.
Police say the victim, who has not been identified publicly, was transported by helicopter to Fort St. John but died en route.
The RCMP say a workplace fatality investigation is underway involving the police, BC Coroners Service, WorkSafeBC and the BC Wildfire Service.
Provincial officials have confirmed the man was a contracted firefighter working for the wildfire service through a private B.C. company and died while fighting the almost 6,000-square-kilometre Donnie Creek blaze.
The fatality follows three other firefighters’ deaths this month in British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
On July 13, 19-year-old Devyn Gale died while combatting a wildfire near Revelstoke, B.C., after she was struck by a falling tree.
On July 15, 25-year-old Adam Yeadon died while fighting a blaze near Fort Liard, a hamlet in the Northwest Territories north of the British Columbia boundary.
Then, on July 19, 41-year-old Ryan Gould died near Haig Lake 140 kilometres northeast of Peace River, Alta., when his helicopter crashed while fighting another fire.
B.C. Premier David Eby issued a statement on Saturday saying the fatality coming so soon after Gale’s death “has shaken people throughout” the province and devastated the firefighting community.
“This wildfire season has been profoundly awful,” Eby said. “We are so grateful to this firefighter and all of our firefighters for their daily heroism. This tragic news reminds us yet again of the extraordinary sacrifices they make to keep us safe.”
Statistics from the provincial wildfire service show there are currently 363 active wildfires in British Columbia, with 11 new fires in the last 24 hours and 191 blazes classified as out of control.
In total, there have been 1,517 wildfires in British Columbia this year, burning a record-breaking 15,397 square kilometres of trees, bush and grassland.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 29, 2023.
Banner image via The Canadian Press