The hundreds of Canadian Armed Forces personnel who've helped battle wildfires in B.C. this summer are heading home.
In late July, as wildfires tore through much of the southern Interior of B.C., military personnel arrived in the province to lend a hand to BC Wildfire Service firefighters.
On Sunday, their deployment on the wildfire front will come to an end.
"I want to thank all of the Canadian Armed Forces personnel, and all our other partners who provided such invaluable assistance, for their hard work and dedication this fire season,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, in a statement.
With unprecedented high temperatures and extremely dry conditions, this fire season was one of the most active and destructive on record. Hundreds of homes were destroyed by several of the province's massive fires.
"When faced with such extreme circumstances, the BC Wildfire Service often reaches out to other jurisdictions for support to help keep communities safe,” Conroy said. “This year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we've been fortunate to receive assistance from other Canadian provinces and territories, Parks Canada, Mexico and Australia, and from contractors, industry personnel, First Nations and other key partners here in B.C.
“This year, the Canadian Armed Forces provided personnel and aircraft to help with evacuations, air transport for fire crews and equipment, and firefighting activities. Those personnel have played a significant role in the BC Wildfire Service's response to the Thomas Creek, Flat Lake and White Rock Lake fires.”
About 300 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers and 55 personnel from the Air Task Force were assigned to the fire fight at at time, with about 625 individuals cycling through throughout the summer.
“Although there are still over 200 wildfires burning in B.C., weather conditions and fire behaviour have improved dramatically in recent days,” Conroy said. “Given the current fire situation, we have sufficient resources in place to respond appropriately to current wildfire activity.”
The large White Rock Lake fire has now been classified as “held,” as has the Sparks Lake and Mount Law fires.