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.

 

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

Local Indigenous model gets opportunity to be on the runway in major Australian fashion show

Jada Raphael of the Cook’s Ferry Band will represent the Nlakapamux and Secwepemc Nations.

New members help keep Ashcroft and District Lions Club in good shape

Other Lions clubs are having to close because of aging membership and lack of new members.

Please don’t feed the deer: you’ll do more harm than good

Plus the possibility of wolves in Ashcroft, why we feed the birds, and why you don’t want raccoons.

Local News Briefs: Night Market and Swap and Shop coming to the HUB in February

Plus Experience Gold Country, why not to turn on house lights while driving, and more.

Golden Country: Yale goes from deserted Hudson’s Bay Company post to boom town

When gold fever prompted thousands of miners north, Yale found itself at the eye of the storm.

B.C. boy denied $19,000-per-month drug to ease ‘crippling pain’ for 3rd time

Sooke mom Jillian Lanthier says son Landen Alexa has been forgotten about by Premier John Horgan

Senior randomly stabbed in B.C. mall food court

Woman arrested after victim, 71, suffers serious injuries

B.C. Liberal hopefuls begin final leadership push

Five MLAs, one outsider pitch policies to party members

Vancouver Island marijuana producer bought by Aphria in $230M deal

Aphria’s annual production forecast increases to 230,000 kgs

UPDATED: ‘Young, innocent’ teen hit during Vancouver shootout dies

15-year-old Coquitlam boy was in a car driving by the scene

Ontario man charged with selling Canadian’s usernames and passwords

Ontario man ran site that peddled billions of pieces of personal data: RCMP

Video: B.C. documentary features Okanagan ice climbing

First documentary for Penticton filmmaker captures elusive Okanagan ice climbing

David Emerson quits lumber talks as legal action begins

Former federal minister served as B.C. softwood trade point man

Men accused in Michael Bonin’s murder knew him: IHIT

20-year-old’s body found on a rural service road North of Hope in April

Most Read