Firefighting specialists from Australia have arrived in B.C. to help with the province’s wildfires. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Australian firefighters bring experience to the B.C. wildfire battle

Australian officers and technicians visit Chilliwack to be brief on B.C. blazes

A group of 53 Australian firefighting specialists touched down in B.C. Thursday at the Pacific Regional Training Centre in Chilliwack before heading out to fight wildfires across B.C.

There are an estimated 140 fires still burning, according to the BC Wildfire Service, and more than 35,000 people were out of their homes as of Wednesday.

The actual trees and bears in B.C. may be quite different from what they’re used to, but the Australians deal with similar types of fuel loads and wind-driven wildfire situations, said Barry Scott, an aerial operations branch director from Australia.

“Australia is a very fire prone environment,” Scott said, especially in Southeastern Australia with its forests of eucalyptus, which can be a volatile fuel, causing intense fires.

UNDER EVACUATION: Exploring resilience of those devestated by B.C. wildfires

They have tons of experience fighting forest fires and the extreme fire weather that comes with it, he said.

“So that allows us to work in very similar sorts of environments in terms of fire loads, not necessarily in terms of tree types because they are different, but management in terms of incident control is very similar,” Scott said.

Their skill sets are very similar, and the command structure used in Canada to fight forest fires is almost the same.

The specialists are from various jurisdictions in Australia, and are lending a hand as part of a longstanding agreement they have with B.C. and with Canada as well, said Kevin Skrepnek, chief fire information officer for BC Wildfire Service.

The personnel who’ve flown into B.C. this week are not front-line firefighters but specialists with ample experience.

“A lot of the roles are hard to come by in Canada,” Skrepnek said. “So they will be of great assistance.”

Two teams of about 10 Aussies each will be assigned to specific fires in Quesnel and Princeton. Another 30 are “single resources” or experts that will be embedded with B.C. crews across the province.

The rain Thursday could make a slight difference.

“Today there has been a little bit of rain that has come through,” noted Scott. “It will be potentially patchy over the different fire grounds. But where it’s fallen it will actually give some sort of a short reprieve for the firefighters. It will help them potentially consolidate some of their lines, reduce the fire behaviour and intensities.”

The Australians will be helping with logistics, aerial equipment, and technology.

A “range of specialists” are part of the Australian contingent as incident controllers, fire behaviourists, planning chiefs, operations chiefs, air branch directors, logistics specialists and as well as support people, like liaisons who work in the field, and two people in Winnipeg coordinating the deployment with Canadians, added Scott.


 

@chwkjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Firefighting specialists from Australia have arrived in B.C. to help with the province’s wildfires. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Supt. Paul Jones speaks with media on Thursday. He is part of a firefighting specialist team from Australia that has arrived in B.C. to help with the province’s wildfires. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Wayne Riggs (right) and Paul Simakoff-Ellims are part of an Australian firefighting specialist team who are in B.C. to help with the province’s wildfires. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Kevin Skrepnek (left) with BC Wildfire Service chats with a team of Australian firefighting specialists who are in B.C. to help with the province’s wildfires. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

(Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

Just Posted

North District RCMP see massive spike in domestic calls

Connection to COVID-19 pandemic likely for reduced call volume, increased severity

Northwest mines lengthen crew rotations in response to COVID-19

Northern Health confident precautions sufficient enough to keep work camps open

COVID-19: Old Massett Emergency Operations Centre erects three checkpoints

Old Massett Village Council letter says checkpoint locations are New Town, Yakan Point, Old Massett

Fisheries and Oceans Canada lifts at-sea observer requirements due to COVID-19

Fisheries Management Order went into effect April 2 and will remain for 45 days

Here’s how to talk to people who aren’t taking physical distancing seriously

Approach the conversation with empathy says conflict expert

B.C. clears more acute hospital beds as COVID-19 case growth slows

Province holding about 40% of beds empty for peak still to come

As 500K+ apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind

Canada Emergency Response Benefit provides $2,000 per month

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

UPDATE: UK PM Boris Johnson moved to intensive care after COVID-19 symptoms worse

He has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26

Travellers, travel agents ‘in agony’ over refund policies and customer service

Many Canadian carriers are offering customers flights rebookings or travel vouchers — but not refunds

Introverted and extroverted kids likely to react differently to COVID-19 restrictions

B.C. child psychologist says your parenting approach can’t be one-size fits all in social isolation

B.C. begins taking submissions for $2M COVID-19 research fund

Rural health, impact of shifting hospital resources among priorities

Most Read