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Smoke show of a fire department, Big White does it all

BWFD responds to fires, road rescues, medical emergencies
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Big White Fire Department (bigwhitefire.com)

This is part of a series of stories celebrating the 60th anniversary of Big White Ski Resort

The Big White Fire Department has seen a great deal of growth since it was founded in 1984 and has become the main provider of emergency services in the village.

Fire Chief Josh Foster has been with the department for nearly two decades and has sat in the lead position for the past year.

“It started out as strictly a volunteer fire department with members of the community. They bought some old, used fire trucks just to service the needs of the growing resort community,” Foster said.

The fire department has had to grow with the community, noting that the team was only about 20 members when he started and now is around 36.

The members are now paid on-call and no longer reliant on volunteers. “That’s allowed us to elevate the level of training and certification and that sort of thing to better serve the needs of the community.”

Foster said their members work towards a certificate similar to that of professional firefighters in larger cities and work closely with other local departments when necessary.

“When we first started the crew was trained to what was known back then as the basic firefighter. What it’s called now from the office of the Fire Commissioner in B.C. is what’s called an exterior operations firefighter. Now, our crews are trained to make entry if there’s a structure that’s on fire with a self-contained breathing apparatus and various firefighting techniques.”

A large part of what the department does is road rescue on Highway 33. Foster said they have an agreement with Emergency Management Climate Resiliency B.C. under the Provincial Emergency Program to respond as far as Carmi, just north of Beaverdell.

BWFD has also filled in the ambulatory gap at the resort.

“There used to be an ambulance stationed on the mountain, and when we lost that service what we did as a department was a step up our level of care from just a first responder to an EMR or an emergency medical responder, which is just one step down from a PCP or a paramedic.”

Foster said their response time is approximately eight minutes anywhere on the mountain from when the 911 call is made.

The department does not respond to anything directly on the mountain, instead, those incidents are responded to by Big White Ski Patrol and Bike Control depending on the season. The patrols also take care of mountain staff and guests, but BWFD will assist with calls when necessary.

The fire crew works closely with the department in Kelowna. The KFD supports Big White’s work experience program.

“We have seven firefighters that live in at the station here. It’s somewhat of an internship-type program. They work as a paid-on-call firefighter. They join us at the beginning of June, we put them through a significant amount of training and certification in addition to their existing certifications, and then they leave toward the end of April.”

The Kelowna Fire Department takes the work experience firefighters for a ride-along day to give them a better taste of working in a busier city versus the quieter life at the resort.

The Big White Fire Department is always looking for new members. Foster said there are always opportunities to assist with basic medical aid and work in support roles without the need to run into a burning building.

Anyone interested in learning more about the department or those who live at Big White and want to get involved should contact BWFD at (250)765-3090.



Brittany Webster

About the Author: Brittany Webster

A video journalist with Black Press Media. I recently made the exciting move from my radio anchor position at AM 1150 to this new venture.
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