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Northwest Fire Centre dispatch crews prepare for fire season

The Northwest Fire Centre says it continues to prepare for the wildfire season starting at the dispatch level.

BC Wildfire Service has dispatchers at all of its fire centres which acts as a communication link between Air Attack Officers and fire centres.

According to Dispatch Lead Cassandra Van Eik, when someone reports a fire they are speaking with the Provincial Wildfire Reporting Fire Centre which then directs the information to the dispatch team so it can be added to a provincially used mapping and tracking system.

Additionally, if resources go out to investigate the report the dispatcher will create an incident number and monitor activity from the moment they leave the fire base until they return.

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Van Eik explained how the dispatch team is preparing for the fire season.

“I’d say our main preparation on the dispatch side of things is training our dispatchers for that heavy traffic on the radios, heavy traffic with calls and our reports coming in,” she said.

Van Eik added that there is a test version of the software where dispatchers can prepare for heavy traffic.

For the operational side there is also a roster position which is a Regional Wildfire Coordination Officer.

According to Sandy Maclean, who currently holds that position it is important to whoever is in the role to have an awareness on what kind of fires can be expected.

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He said that every morning they have a meeting with forecasters about current weather conditions.

“A big part of our job is to have that background awareness so that, by the time we actually get a report of a fire we kind of already have a bit of a plan in our head about what that response is going to look like,” Maclean said.

Additionally, dispatchers monitor fire activity and handle radio communications and contact various groups or people who may be impacted by a fire.

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