Skip to content

'More slips, trips, falls': Fatigue hits BC Wildfire Service

The organization says it's seeing more safety concerns as a result of fatigue caused by a very difficult wildfire season.

As the 2021 wildfire season rages on through August, firefighters are feeling the impacts of a lengthy and trying summer. 

During a press conference on Thursday, BC Wildfire Service’s manager of fire operations Todd Nessman admitted this has been a hard season. 

“It’s a hard season, I am not going to lie. It’s difficult,” he says. 

There are 291 active wildfires currently burning in British Columbia with more than 852,386 hectares burned. More than 1,500 wildfires have been sparked since April 1, 2021. 

"It’s been a long summer for many of our firefighters and staff supporting the efforts,” says Nessman.

More than 3,800 firefighters and personnel are on the frontline — and fatigue has set in, the BCWS said Thursday.

“It’s nearly the end of August yet wildfires continue to burn throughout the province," says B.C.'s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

Many firefighters have been deployed for three to four tours in a row and the season is not nearing its end. 

"In terms of areas of concern for BC Wildfire Service, fatigue is something that we have a concern with,” says Nessman. 

BC Wildfire Service is starting to see more safety concerns coming forward with firefighters slipping, tripping and falling while working.

“Those types of events, as well as other serious occurrences, are happening,” he says. "It’s something that we take seriously and we want to monitor and make sure our staff are safe.”

The organization says it's learning from 2017 and 2018, two other trying wildfire seasons.

“We are trying to help mitigate some of the fatigue measures with our staff and paying attention to that. If people need more time off, we’re trying to provide that,” says Nessman.

The service hasn't had any significant injuries this year, he adds.

“But now is the time we have to pay attention to it.”