Thunderbird Fire Crew Wrestles More Than Just Forest Fires

Post date: Aug 14, 2012 3:29:41 PM

The BC Forest Service’s Thunderbird Unit Crew is an elite wildfire management crew stationed at the Alberni Regional Airport. The 20 person unit crew can be dispatched to fight forest fires all over British Columbia as well as outside the province when necessary.

When they are not away fighting fires, the Alberni Valley is very fortunate to have the crew stationed and ready throughout most of the spring and summer months. However, this past week, the fire crew did more than just protect Vancouver Island from the risk of forest fires. The Thunderbirds volunteered their time to assist the Alberni Valley Wrestling Club with their work to host the Thunder in the Valley Drag Races.

The Alberni Valley Wrestling Club is responsible for the setup, takedown and security for the big racing event. In exchange for their work the wrestling club gets the opportunity to sell 50/50 tickets at the event. Money raised goes towards helping fund the wrestling programs which are offered at all Port Alberni schools. There are a number of wrestlers who depend on the financial assistance provided through these fundraisers to attend tournaments and training opportunities throughout the season. With a large portion of the AVWC athletes, coaches, and supporters on a cultural exchange to Europe; the Wrestling club was short a few volunteers.

“The drag races are a big event for our wrestling club. I wasn’t sure how we were going to manage with a big chunk of our group away at the Olympics. I was phoning, emailing, and sweet talking just about anyone I knew into taking a volunteer shift,” stated wrestling coach and volunteer organizer James Messenger.

The Thunderbird Fire Crew who happened to be stationed at the airport, heard about the wrestling club’s predicament and came to the rescue.

“The Thunderbirds definitely saved us,” noted Messenger. “They brought their crew in to assist us with the setup on Friday. I thought that was awesome and more than we could ever ask for. I guess you have to be pretty physically fit to fight forest fires. They got setup done in record time… Then a number of the crew heard we were short volunteers for security. When they heard this, a bunch of the fire crew signed up, on their days off, to help fill vacant shifts on Saturday and Sunday.”

The only thing the Thunderbirds wanted in return.

“We just wanted to know that our work would go towards supporting kids doing healthy activities in the community,” commented Thunderbird crew leader Dean Neville. “If our work can provide financial assistance to a wrestler in need: than it’s all worth it. A few members of our crew, including myself, wrestled in high school and almost everyone played a sport of some kind. We realize how much these work activities are essential in developing young adults as well as financially supporting their efforts. Our crew felt honored to be able to give back to the community since it plays host to most of our crew members during the fire season.”

The Thunderbirds were only able to provide help assuming no forest fires needed attending. Fortunately, despite the dry conditions, there were no major fires over the weekend. With the warm weather forecasted and the fire risk increasing, it is doubtful that it will be too long before the Thunderbird Unit Crew is called into forest fire action again. A reminder to stay informed with the local fire prohibitions and area restrictions and to report wildfires throughout the remainder of the fire season.