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Rapid attack preparation

B.C. wildfire fighters practice entering and exiting a hovering helicopter at the Qualicum Beach Airport last Wednesday afternoon as part of a non mandatory certification course preparing firefighters for the upcoming season. - CANDACE WU PHOTO
B.C. wildfire fighters practice entering and exiting a hovering helicopter at the Qualicum Beach Airport last Wednesday afternoon as part of a non mandatory certification course preparing firefighters for the upcoming season.
— image credit: CANDACE WU PHOTO

Thirty Vancouver Island wildfire fighters spent a sweltering hot afternoon climbing in — and jumping out of — helicopters hovering over Qualicum Beach last Wednesday.

The firefighters were enrolled in a two-day certification course to learn hover exit and entrance strategies in preparation for the upcoming fire season.

“We don’t use this method often because our crews usually travel by ground transportation but it’s certainly useful if they need to access a remote location,” explained fire information officer Marg Drysdale, adding the course was not a requirement but a recommendation.

The course included one-and-a-half days of classroom work before launching the firefighters out of helicopters at a low elevation, which was the final test to pass the re-certification course that must be renewed annually.

Drysdale said the Coastal Fire Centre, based in Parksville, sees an average of 267 lightning or human caused fires every year. The centre covers 12.8 million hectares of land including Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and north to Bella Coola and Haida Gwaii.

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