4 B.C. wildfire fighters dead in Hwy 1 crash west of Kamloops: police

Four B.C. wildfire fighters have died in a vehicle crash on Highway 1 near Kamloops. (CBC - image credit)
Four B.C. wildfire fighters have died in a vehicle crash on Highway 1 near Kamloops. (CBC - image credit)

Four wildfire fighters are dead after a two-vehicle collision on Highway 1 about 70 kilometres west of Kamloops near near the community of Walhachin, B.C., police say.

All four were men working as B.C. Wildfire Service sub-contractors from various locations in the province. They were travelling home from fighting fires on Tuesday when the Ford F-350 pickup truck they were in collided head-on with a semi-trailer around 2 a.m. PT, said the RCMP.

The four firefighters were pronounced dead at the scene. The semi caught fire but the driver managed to escape, police said.

An initial investigation determined the pickup failed to navigate a bend in the road to the right and crossed the centre line, hitting the semi, the release said.

WorkSafe B.C. confirmed it has opened an investigation into the deaths to identify the cause of the incident and any contributing factors, "so that similar incidents can be prevented from happening in the future."

"This is devastating news in what has been an immensely difficult wildfire season," said Premier David Eby and Forests Minister Bruce Rolston in a joint statement. "We stand with wildfire fighters and all B.C. Wildfire Service personnel as they mourn the death of colleagues and co-workers yet again."

The deaths bring the number of wildfire fighters killed in B.C. this summer to six.

In July, 19-year-old Devyn Gale was killed by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire near her hometown of Revelstoke.

In the same month, Zak Muise, 25, died when his ATV rolled off a steep drop on a gravel road north of Fort St. John while he helped battle the massive Donnie Creek wildfire.

"This year has been particularly challenging for the B.C. Wildfire Service, with several of its members facing injuries or losing their lives. Our thoughts are with the friends and family of those who help keep our province safe," said Cpl. James Grandy, spokesperson for the B.C. RCMP Southeast District.

Grandy said Highway 1 was shut down for many hours to allow investigations by crash reconstruction specialists and the B.C. Coroner Service. It has since reopened.