tents

Tents line a field next to the Oliver Municipal Airport where members of the B.C. Wildfire Service are camping while the fight the Eagle Bluff fire.

Camping at Oliver’s municipal airport may not have been the get-away many B.C. Wildfire Service crew members had hoped for this summer, but at least they’re among friends.

The Herald and other media outlets were this week given a private tour of the camp situated at the base of the 2,632-hectare Eagle Bluff fire between Okanagan Falls and Oliver.

“From the time you wake up, everybody is just smiling and waving, saying, ‘Good morning,’” said Natasha Lewis, the camp’s service branch director.

“It’s just really great to have a group of people here who understand the environment and who understand how everybody needs to be treated to have a successful work place.”

Lewis helps ensure there’s enough food and supplies for the crew, a difficult task as many people come and go.

She said morale in camp remains high.

“We celebrate our little successes, whether that’s getting a good line put in, or whether it’s just a day of the fire not moving, it’s really just all the small things that make the group come together to form a big happy group here at the fire,” said Lewis.

Approximately 275 people live in the base camp now as the fire burns just 20 minutes away. The number of residents was as high as 350/

Lewis been living in camp for a week, with plans of staying one more. It’s a typical shift for many of the crew members who are shipped to Oliver from across the province, many of whom recognize one another from previous years.

Meals are eaten together in a large tented area with a TV and picnic benches, just a short distance away from where a crew of 10 prepare three daily meals and bagged lunches.

“It’s 24/7, it’s been busy,” said Chris Fraser, the head chef and manager of the company that’s been contracted to serve the camp.

And of course we’re out in the elements, that can be challenging as well. Especially in this heat and humidity.”

Fraser said the support from local communities has been “great,” with donations flooding into the camp.

“Pies, cookies, squares, people just wanting to volunteer their time,” he said. “It’s been great. Fantastic, actually.”