Smokejumpers parattack Duncan BC
A smokejumper with the BC Wildfire Service Parattack program parachutes down over the Holyoak Creek fire between Duncan and Chemainus, B.C. Photo by Philip McLachlan/The Discourse
Cowichan Valley Vancouver Island

In a first for Vancouver Island, smokejumpers parachute down to fight Mount Prevost wildfire

BC Wildfire Service plans aggressive attack on Saturday, Aug. 7.
Jacqueline Ronson and August 7, 2021

On Friday, Aug. 6 at around 5 p.m., a Turbine DC-3 plane swirled around Mount Prevost, near Duncan. B.C., carrying very special cargo. One by one, seven firefighters jumped from the plane, adjacent to a 32-hectare, out-of-control wildfire in the Copper Canyon area of the Chemainus River valley. Also from the plane fell enough gear to support the crew, as they did what they could to control the Holyoak Creek fire’s growth overnight.

These firefighters are members of the BC Wildfire Service Parattack program, which offers a quick response to remote wildfires. They flew from Fort St. John for this mission. Their jumps marked the first time ever that smokejumpers have come to Vancouver Island, confirmed Dorthe Jakobsen, fire information officer with the Coastal Fire Centre.

holyoak creek wildfire
The Holyoak Creek wildfire as seen from above on Friday, Aug. 6. Photo by the BC Wildfire Service

Under the smokejumpers’ watch, the fire did not grow overnight, Jakobsen said. About five millimetres of rain helped control its growth. However, with wind in the forecast for Sunday, BC Wildfire Service plans “aggressive action” to control the fire on Saturday, Aug. 7.

“Weather conditions can change very quickly,” Jakobsen said. “We’re definitely hoping for good progress today.”

That response will include five helicopters, 30 firefighters, water trucks and excavators. A sprinkler system has been set up to protect a property in the area, where an evacuation order is in effect.

Related story: As wildfires burn, here’s how you can get prepared and stay safe

The Cowichan Valley Regional District and the Municipality of North Cowichan declared a local state of emergency related to the fire on Friday, Aug. 6. The state of emergency applies to the areas around Mount Prevost and Mount Sicker, bordering Hillcrest, Somenos, Chemainus, Westholme and Saltair.

bc wildfire holyoak creek fire map
This BC Wildfire Service map shows the contours of the fire at Holyoak Creek as of the morning of Saturday, Aug. 7. The small red triangle to the right of the fire is the location of the evacuation order. The green dot indicates the location of a previous wildfire, now under control. Screenshot from the BC Wildfire Dashboard

The CVRD has set up a Regional Emergency Operations Centre to coordinate the response. It is communicating with local fire departments and Halalt First Nation. In a call early Saturday morning, CVRD communication manager Kris Schumacher said the team met at 8:30 a.m. and will meet again at 11 a.m. to plan and respond.