Upper Clearwater Volunteer Fire Brigade members (l-r) Todd Nielsen, Alex Kramer, Mike Ward, Steve Murray, Dave McHardy and Jerry Kynl stand in front of the group’s two fire trucks, both of which were purchased at auction sales to help protect Upper Clearwater from wildfire activity. Photo submitted

Volunteer Fire Brigade continues slow, steady growth in Upper Clearwater

Since its creation two years ago the Upper Clearwater Volunteer Fire Brigade has been growing slow and steady, and now the group is holding a raffle to raise money to better equip its members.

The fire brigade was formed in 2017 when about 20 Upper Clearwater residents decided to form a fire suppression crew due to the increasingly dangerous wildfire seasons, coupled with the fact there’s only one road in and out of the area.

“Today’s purpose is two-fold: one is to promote the tickets for the raffle and the second part is to promote the awareness of our existence as well as what we’ve accomplished in the last couple years,” said member, Alex Kramer, at a demonstration the fire brigade held recently.

“We started in 2017 when the fires were going and they shut down Wells Gray Park at that time, so we decided to get together and do something about it.”

The brigade held its first meeting on July 17 of that year and shortly after the group’s fire chief, Steve Murray, who’s a government-qualified trainer, offered free S100 and S180 training to interested Upper Clearwater residents.

After a well-attended fundraising event featuring live entertainment by Tim Hus, the crew was able to buy its first fire truck from the Vavenby Fire Department, which was bought at an auction sale.

This replaced the vehicle the brigade had been using, a Ford F350 pickup truck with a large water tank in the box that not only held less water than the actual fire truck, but was also quite dangerous for the personnel who work on it, said Murray.

Then early this year the group was able to get another fire truck at a second auction sale from the Clearwater Fire Department, providing a welcome addition to the crews’ resources.

The fire brigade’s current fundraising effort is also needed to enhance its operating budget, which Kramer said has to be done with internal efforts because there aren’t any grants to support financial assistance for that specific cause.

“We’re responsible for it. The only money we can get is from our fundraising,” he said.

The operating budget covers a large number of items ranging from liability and vehicle insurance, yearly truck inspections, radio licenses, as well as fuel and maintenance.

The group is also in the process of getting a license to occupy property so it can store its equipment, with Kramer noting everything is currently stored on private property.

Other equipment the brigade is trying to get include more pumps, a water reservoir, and additional safety clothing.

“Our radio, personal gear, first aid kit, and whatnot, is anywhere between $1,100 and $1,300 per person,” added Murray.

“Some people have been paying out-of-pocket, but not everyone can afford that, so the purpose of this fundraising scenario is to raise money so everyone has a radio and everyone can have gear purchased for them.”

It should be noted the Upper Clearwater Volunteer Fire Brigade doesn’t tackle structure fires, and will only attend smaller flare-ups to prevent them from getting out of hand as well as work to prevent wildfires from getting too close to people’s homes.

As for the fundraising raffle, there are more than $5,000 in prizes up for grabs, with first prize including two tickets to any location West Jet flies and $250 flight centre voucher.

Second prize is a Wells Gray Experience with two nights at Across the Creek Cabins, a three hour horseback ride with Western Riding, a Clearwater Lake Boat tour and dinner at Hop N Hog.

Third prize is a Wells Gray Golf Course two-night package.

Raffle tickets cost $5 each, with only 3,000 available, and the draw takes place on Oct. 14. Those interested can contact Claudette at 250-674-2711.

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Upper Clearwater Volunteer Fire Brigade members, Tex Krombach and Steve Murray, fit a fire hose to the group’s newest fire truck, purchased early this year from the Clearwater Fire Department. Photo submitted

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