The new Arrow Fire Zone Primary Attack Base is the first of its kind in B.C., and will set the precedent for new wildfire bases in the future.
Jason Hall, a forest protection officer, said the base houses four full-time staff members, six three-person initial attack teams (including para-attack and rap-attack crews) and two 20-person unit crews.
“Before, the crew would literally just have their locker room,” Hall explained. Now, each crew has their own room in the base, which is used as office space, a meeting room and a place for each crew to convene and discuss their plans for the day.
“Facilities tend to be a bit dated, provincially,” Hall said. “We’re going to see more and more bases of this size.”
Along with the extra space, Hall said the base will allow crews to operate more safely, as they’ll know where everything is located when they’re called out and they can just grab their equipment and go.
The crews will also be able to clean up before they go home, with laundry facilities and showers located on-site.
A giant conference room, set up to seat 40 to 70 people, will operate as a training room and be rented out to other ministries and companies looking to meet within the area.
“This will allow our crews to get the training we need,” he said.
Valhalla Unit crew leader Colby Lehman said before, their facility was “sub-par.”
“It’s going to help us operate more effectively as a crew,” he said. “It gives all the crews here a real sense of pride.”
Lehman said before the attack base was built, they were set up in ATCO trailers and each crew was separated.
“There’s a lot more of a family feel to the way we work now,” he said.
The new building also focuses on sustainability, with the floors made of recycled rubber and the heat coming from solar energy and an Austrian pellet stove. Hall said the pellets come from pine beetle-infested wood from the Cariboo that can’t be used for anything else.
Hall also said the building reflects B.C.’s “wood first” policy that requires wood to be the primary building material in provincially-funded buildings.
The location of the base was chosen partly for its proximity to both Highways 3A and 6, as well as the West Kootenay Regional Airport.