A fourth emergency responder has died fighting wildfires in Canada after a workplace incident turned fatal in rural B.C.
An RCMP spokesperson told reporters Saturday that a 25-year-old firefighter from Ontario fell over a steep drop at approximately 11 a.m. on Friday while operating a heavy-duty ATV north of Fort St. John.
The firefighter, who has not been identified publicly, worked for the B.C. wildfire service through a private company when he tragically died while fighting the almost 6,000-square-kilometre Donnie Creek blaze.
According to the RCMP, the emergency responder succumbed to his injuries en route to Fort St. John by helicopter.
The federal police service confirmed a workplace fatality investigation is underway involving the police, B.C. Coroners Service, WorkSafeBC and the B.C. Wildfire Service.
The fatality follows the deaths of three other firefighters this month in B.C., Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
On July 13, 19-year-old Devyn Gale died after a falling tree fatally struck her while combatting a wildfire near Revelstoke, B.C.
On July 15, 25-year-old Adam Yeadon died fighting a blaze near Fort Liard, a hamlet in the Northwest Territories.
Then, on July 19, 41-year-old Ryan Gould died near Haig Lake 140 kilometres northeast of Peace River, Alberta, when his helicopter crashed while fighting another blaze.
On Saturday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid homage to the downed firefighter, saying he “lost his life […while] serving others and working selflessly to keep them safe.”
“We are forever grateful,” he said. “I’m keeping his family, friends, and colleagues in my thoughts at this painful time.”
Since 2021, Environment Canada has spent over $65 million on the National Wildfire Management Program at Parks Canada to bolster wildfire risk reduction.
On Saturday, B.C. Premier David Eby said the fire season “has shaken people throughout.”
“This wildfire season has been profoundly awful,” he said. “We are so grateful to this firefighter and our firefighters for their daily heroism. This tragic news reminds us again of their extraordinary sacrifices to keep us safe.”
According to the provincial wildfire service, B.C. has 363 active wildfires, with 11 new fires in the last 24 hours and 191 blazes classified as out of control.
The Donnie Creek wildfire covers an area of 5,831.5 square kilometres — larger than the entirety of P.E.I. — and is expected to burn well into the winter months. It is the province’s largest wildfire in recorded history.
In total, 1,517 wildfires have burned through a record-breaking 15,397 square kilometres of trees, bush and grassland in the province.