Aussies on mission to help Alberta by fighting fires

Alberta up in smoke.

ANOTHER group of NSW firefighters deployed for more than a month in Canada, has returned home safe.

Canada is experiencing significant fire activity early in the season and stands at the highest level of national preparedness.

NSW’s four fire-fighting authorities, including Forestry Corporation, have sent about 200 firefighters to help in Canada.

“They came to help us and it’s good to reciprocate,” said Tom Halliday, harvesting manager at Forestry Corporation.
“We met some great people who were very appreciative.”

Tom and Peter Simon from Coffs Harbour and Mark Drury from Wauchope went over together.

Firstly, they were briefed in Australia by the Queensland Fire Service, then in Alberta by their forest authorities about the general situation there and the local differences of topography, the fire weather and the processes and systems they have.

This was followed by more specific briefings at the fire grounds about what they wanted to achieve and how to “put them out”.

For example, spruce and birch forest contained a lot of dead matter, debris as deep as 25 metres.

The fire weather was humidity driven, meaning when humidity dropped the temperature rose and fires flared.

Tom was stationed in the far north and had to be driven ten hours to get to the fire ground and on other occasions choppered out in the morning and back in the afternoon.

“Saving life and property were the biggest priorities and there was a lot of effort in protecting towns, for example, Rainbow Lake and the Chateh Indigenous community were very grateful as they had to be evacuated,” Tom told News of the Area.

“When we got there, their fire was 3 percent contained and we got it down to 70 percent contained after working on that fire for four weeks, but then unfortunately two started due to lighting strikes and are still uncontained.”

Tom’s back at work in the Coffs region now.


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