By Lyonel Doherty
Wildfires kept the Fairmont Hot Springs Airport extremely busy during the height of the Horsethief Creek Complex.
“It’s probably the busiest time we’ve had in the last four years,” said operations manager Tex Deagnon over the din of aircraft noise recently.
The airport’s dedicated group of volunteers accommodated many aircraft in the Horsethief Creek Complex since July 24. Planes and helicopters utilized the airport to refuel and conduct maintenance and repairs.
Deagnon estimated the airport hosted between 12 and 20 refuellings per day, adding that 25 to 30 trips were made out of the site daily by crews fighting the fires.
He pointed out they had to turn away other aircraft because there was no room for them to park. That’s how busy it was.
Deagnon said that wildfires are very unpredictable, recalling that it felt like “all hell broke loose” on July 24 when the Horsethief Creek fire started. In talking to some BC forestry personnel a few days ago, it was believed that the fire would soon be under control, but those hopes faded when fire activity picked up and 926 properties in the Panorama area were issued an evacuation alert.
Deagnon said he has observed how hard fire crews are working. “They’re fully devoted to getting this fire under control,” he stated, despite the fact some personnel are showing fatigue.
Andrea Tubbs, secretary of the Columbia Valley Airport Society, said it would be much more cumbersome and makeshift for the BC Wildfire Service if the Fairmont airport didnt exist.
Airport volunteer Dennis Herman said what was amazing to see was nearby residents bringing treats, lunches, and dinner to pilots and their engineers who really had no other opportunity to eat with their busy schedule.