Doerr lives in St. Albert and has been in Williams Lake for nearly two weeks with the infantry. He has been overseeing camp setup for firefighters battling the blaze on the front lines.
In addition, he says the infantry will help the RCMP in their efforts of public safety. This includes traffic, setting up barricades and helping with evacuation orders.
Doerr says this is his first time being deployed to assist in wildfire efforts. He has been with the Canadian Armed Forces for 19 years.
“It’s very different. Anytime I went to Afghanistan, you went there with one mission and it was a very simple objective. For this one it’s not what we trained for when we joined the Canadian Armed Forces.”
He says working on the fires requires managing different civilian and military agencies, as well as making sure the local population is comfortable with the military presence.
“The people of Williams Lake have been absolutely accepting of us and have been nothing but hospitable,” he says.
There are around 450 soldiers on the ground, with 200 assisting the RCMP, 150 assisting mop-up efforts of the fires and 50 providing combat support across the province.
He says the operation has been relatively stress-free in comparison to operations overseas, but there have been some challenging circumstances.
On Saturday Doerr was tasked with organizing contractors to set up a camp for firefighters. Just 20 seconds after leaving Williams Lake on Highway 20, he says he lost all cell reception.
“Once we get out there we’re literally without any communications,” he says. “If they don’t (show up on time) then there’s nothing we can do.”
The camp is a place where firefighters can shower, use the washroom, eat, drink and rest. Luckily the contractors found the right place and arrived on time.
As of Sunday there were 140 wildfires burning across the province, including nine that had started on Saturday.
There have been 975 wildfires since April, burning a total of 651,000 hectares of land across B.C.
On July 15 an evacuation order was issued for Williams Lake. By July 27 the evacuation order was lifted and thousands were able to return home.
On Sunday the federal government approved 300 additional military personnel to assist as low-level firefighters until the beginning of September.
For more information on the wildfires and the Canadian Armed Forces visit: https://www.canada.ca/en/campaign/wildfires-in-british-columbia.html