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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — While B.C. is in the middle of its worst-ever year for wildfires, a business owner from Fort St. John says that he can lend a big hand to the BC Wildfire Service.

Jeff Kelly is the owner of Safeguard, an oilfield safety training company based in Fort St. John, and is also a trained instructor with the BC Wildfire Service. Kelly said that he got together with three of the largest oilfield water delivery companies in Western Canada back in July, and have since added two other companies to the group about joining together to offer their help to embattled fire crews.

Kelly explained that the group of companies pooled together to offer their surplus equipment to the BC Wildfire Service. He said that the group of companies have the ability to move up to one million gallons of water per hour, and can store amounts of up to two million gallons of water at almost any site near firefighting efforts. In addition, Kelly said that the biggest weapon the companies have in their fight against the flames is one that has been used by the Wildfire Service for many years, though theirs is on an even greater scale.

“Sprinklers have long since proven themselves as an effective resource in structural protection,” said Kelly. “The BC Forest Service has been using them for the last ten years effectively, and they’ve written it right into their training program. BC Wildfire has Cat. 1 and Cat. 2 sprinkler trailers. They have sprinklers that will put out two and a half to five gallons per minute. They are great around structures as long as you have enough time to wet everything down and keep it wetted down.”

Kelly explains that his group of companies would offer sixty times the capacity that fire crews currently have, and would be able to erect a solid line of sprinklers roughly ten kilometres long, and almost 100 feet deep. In a cost/benefit analysis, Kelly said that the cost of sprinkler services currently being used by the government worked out to over $1/gallon, while his group’s services cost less than one cent per gallon due to the large volumes.

He said that the only downside to his group of companies’ plan is that they would need several days to travel to a site from the Peace Region and set everything up.

Kelly said that he approached the BC Wildfire Service and the office of the provincial Fire Commissioner about the group’s offer, and both initially seemed keen on the idea. However, he said that officials had broken off discussions about taking up the group’s offer, despite a record amount of forests burning across the province.

Chief Information Officer Kevin Skrepnik with the BC Wildfire Service said that staff have had back-and-forth discussions with Kelly, and had been in contact as recently as late August about the proposal. Skrepnik said that though the BC Wildfire Service does not have a current need for the exact services the group of companies at this time, that doesn’t mean that the Wildfire Service is not considering using the companies’ services in the future.

“It’s not that we don’t have a use for it across the board, it’s just that where we’re at right now, the stage that we’re dealing with a lot of our fires, there haven’t really been requests from our teams on the fires for the kind of equipment that he’s offering,” said Skrepnik. “We’re certainly not shutting the door on using them in the future.”

Skrepnik said that the BC Wildfire Service receives many offers from companies during the wildfire season, and that while the Wildfire Service appreciates all the offers they aren’t able to make use of all of them if they aren’t requested by crews on the ground.

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