Penhold fire Capt. Warren Kitteringham and firefighter Ryan Clarke are the latest firefighters from their small department to join Alberta's wildfire battles. (Photo contributed)

Penhold’s volunteer firefighters on front lines of wildfire fight

A dozen firefighters Penhold’s small fire department have volunteered to fight wildfires

Penhold’s small volunteer fire department has been punching above its weight in Alberta’s wildfire fight this summer.

Two firefighters and a water tender left Penhold on Monday to make the 1,200-km journey to Hay River, NWT to join efforts to fight wildfires that forced the evacuation of that community and four others on Sunday.

A dozen of Penhold’s 35 firefighters have now joined — some more than once — the battle against some of the 745 wildfires that have destroyed about three million acres of forest in this year’s devastating fire season.

Penhold Fire Chief Sean Pendergast said fire Capt. Warren Kitteringham and firefighter Ryan Clarke will spend up to two weeks near Hay River. If more help is needed, they will leave their truck behind and two more Penhold firefighters will replace them.

Since May, Penhold firefighters have been on the front lines in Drayton Valley; Peavine Metis Settlement, north of High Prairie; Lac la Biche; Peace River High Level and Zama City to its north; and to Edson.

“The crews we have are always so willing to help the people in need,” said Pendergast.

“There’s a lot of valuable experience to gain off these campaigns as well. We’ve cycled 12 different firefighters through these campaigns. That’s quite a few to ask for time off from work.”

Pendergast said the contributions extend beyond the firefighters who leave their homes, families and jobs to help others hundreds of kilometres away and head into what can be a very dangerous environment. Employers have stepped up by allowing firefighters time off if needed.

“I’m impressed by how many people have jumped up and said, ‘You know, I’m going to talk to my boss and I’m going to get back to you,’ and how many companies have been willing to help during this unprecedented season.”

Other fire departments have also helped out.

“While this truck is away from this municipality our friends in Innisfail have a similar truck that we’re using on an automatic aid agreement. So, they’re helping us cover our municipality while this truck is away and, in turn, we help cover their municipality when they have fires too.”

As well, firefighters with Fahler-based Smoky River Emergency Services gave the Penhold firefighters a bay to park their truck and a place to sleep on the first night of their two-day journey to Hay River.

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