Shuswap rapattack base closure considered

Possible closure of the B.C. Wildfire Rapattack barracks in Salmon Arm comes up at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities.

Closure of Salmon Arm's rapattack base under consideration.

The possible closure of the B.C. Wildfire Rapattack barracks in Salmon Arm came up at the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) convention which ran from Sept. 26 to 30 in Victoria.

Salmon Arm city Coun. Ken Jamieson said the possibility of closing the barracks in Salmon Arm was discussed during a meeting with B.C. Minister of Forests Lands and National Resource Operations (FLNRO) Steve Thomson.

Jamieson described the progress of a plan to close the base as preliminary.

“We made the case to the minister that that’s not a good idea, not in Salmon Arm,” Jamieson said, adding forest-fire season concurs with vacation season, making the rental market for firefighters living seasonally in the area difficult.

Rapattack crews are firefighters who fight wildfires in difficult to access areas by rappelling from helicopters.

According to Jamieson, the Rapattack base located near the Salmon Arm Airport is home to as many as 40 firefighters during wildfire season.

“If you spread them out into the community, you lose that quick response that we’re looking for,” he said.

Jamieson said the Salmon Arm barracks is one of only two places in the province where housing is provided for seasonal firefighters.

The firefighters still have to pay for housing.

Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper said Thomson seemed to understand the issues with rental housing in Salmon Arm and responded positively to the idea of keeping the base open.