During the summer months, lightning storms often illuminate British Columbia's skies. Lightning-caused fires most often occur at higher elevations in inaccessible terrain. Historically, these fires ignited in dense timber and would burn unchecked until crews could hike in and fight the blaze.
Rapattack fire fighters use helicopters and rope rappelling techniques to drop into remote areas and attack these lightning-caused fires while they are still small.
Rapattack crews are also used on larger fires, where they will remove timber to create a helicopter landing location so additional crews and equipment can be strategically located around the fire's perimeter.
Like all fire fighters, candidates for the Rapattack program must be physically fit, highly motivated and unequivocally focused on teamwork. In addition, the nature of the work, using a helicopter and rappel technique, requires crew members to weigh no more than 170 pounds (77 kilograms) dressed weight (in street clothes).
The Rapattack Program operates out of the training and residential base in Salmon Arm and shares its office with the Salmon Arm Fire Zone staff. The 12 3-person provincial rappel crews also fill the initial attack crew requirements of the local Salmon Arm Fire Zone. The Rapattack Duty Officer maintains 24-hour contact with Fire Centres, and can provide technical and strategic advice on rappel and helitanker operations.