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Wildfire fighter dies in B.C. while on front lines of largest fire in province’s history

A wildfire fighter in B.C. died while responding to the Donnie Creek wildfire in northeast B.C. on Friday, according to Mounties.

2nd firefighter to die in province while responding to wildfires this season, amid challenging conditions

A plane flies over the front lines of the Donnie Creek wildfire.

A wildfire fighter in B.C. died while responding to the Donnie Creek wildfire in northeast B.C., according to RCMP.

It's the second firefighter death on the front lines during the 2023 wildfire season in the province, following the death of teenager Devyn Gale on July 13.

RCMP said in a statement that the firefighter was a 25-year-old man from Ontario who died on Friday.

According to police, the wildfire fighter — who was contracted to the B.C. Wildfire Service — was working in a remote area 150 km north of Fort St. John, B.C. when his utility terrain vehicle rolled over a sharp drop in a gravel road.

"He was transported by helicopter to the Fort St. John Airport, but sadly succumbed to his injuries while en route," reads the statement, which says RCMP were first alerted of the death just before 11 a.m. on Friday.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of this young man, as well as to his fellow firefighters."

B.C. Premier David Eby issued a statement over the death on Saturday afternoon, which said the firefighter died due to injuries sustained while working on the Donnie Creek wildfire, the largest ever recorded in B.C. history.

"I am heartbroken that another firefighter was lost protecting our communities and our province during this devastating wildfire season," it read.

"My deepest sympathies are with their family and friends, as well as their colleagues and the broader wildfire community — many of whom I know are still coping with the tragic loss of a colleague earlier this month."

The firefighter's identity has not been released, with the B.C. Wildfire Service (BCWS) saying its primary concern was the privacy of his family.

RCMP say that WorkSafeBC, the B.C. Coroners Service and the BCWS are investigating the fatality.

4th wildfire fighter death across Canada

The death is the fourth such fatality among wildfire fighters in Canada this year, which is considered to be the worst wildfire year on record.

Gale's death earlier this month was the first such fatality during the 2023 wildfire season. The teenager was struck by a falling tree while helping fight a fire near Revelstoke, though the exact fire she was fighting has still not been disclosed.

N.W.T. firefighter Adam Yeadon died on July 15, shortly after Gale's death, while fighting a wildfire near Fort Liard, N.W.T.

On July 19, pilot Ryan Gould died after his firefighting helicopter crashed near Haig Lake in Alberta.

Friday's death is the fifth linked to B.C. wildfires in the past 13 years.

John Phare, 60, died in 2015 while working on a blaze on the Sunshine Coast, northwest of Vancouver. Two air tanker pilots, Tim Whiting and Brian Tilley, died when their plane went down south of Lytton in 2010.

Donnie Creek blaze largest recorded

The Donnie Creek wildfire in northeast B.C. covers an area of 5,831.5 square kilometres — larger than the entirety of Prince Edward Island — north of Fort St. John.

The fire first started on May 12, and is expected to burn into winter.

While its sheer size previously led to evacuation orders and threatened a nearby highway, rain that fell over the giant blaze helped firefighters over the last week, according to the BCWS.


There are currently no evacuation orders due to the fire.

More than 200 firefighters were working on the fire in late June. CBC News has reached out to the BCWS to find out how many were battling the blaze when the firefighter died.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Akshay Kulkarni

Journalist

Akshay Kulkarni is a journalist who has worked at CBC British Columbia since 2021. Based in Vancouver, he has covered breaking news, and written features about the pandemic and toxic drug crisis. He is most interested in data-driven stories. You can email him at akshay.kulkarni@cbc.ca.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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