Canadians help fight wildfires in Oregon

Canadians help fight wildfires in Oregon

26 August 2013

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Canada/USA — This past week, wildland fire experts from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Yukon have joined their U.S. counterparts in managing fire crews on the Government Flats Complex fires.

The Northwest Wildland Fire Protection Agreement, approved by five Pacific Northwest states and five western Canadian provinces, allows such resources to be quickly shared across state, provincial and international boundaries when needed for suppression and control of wildfires.

Alberta Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Resource Development liaison, Jason Pankratow, said seven task force leaders are helping the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Incident Management Team supervise fire crews on both day and night shifts. Small contingents from Saskatchewan, and Yukon are also contributing in similar roles.

“The Alberta fire season typically lasts from March through October but this year has been unusually wet,” said Pankratow. “We Albertans are gaining great fire experience in what otherwise has been a quiet season back home.” More important to Oregonians, the experience these Canadian experts already possess and bring to the Oregon team is extremely valuable in a fire season where wildland firefighting resources have been stretched to the limit throughout the western U.S.

The Canadians are working in fire conditions that are very different than in Alberta. Pankratow said both the steep topography and the extremely dry and flammable eastern Oregon fuels are the biggest differences compared to the forests of Alberta. But he also notes that incident command system used to organize and manage US wildfires is identical to the Canadian system, making their integration into the incident management team a seamless process.

Pankratow said the most interesting learning experience for his group has been participating in the aggressive night-time fire suppression operations employed by the Oregon Department of Forestry, a tactic rarely used in Alberta.

Currently, Alberta firefighters are also working on fires in Idaho, Montana, and southwest Oregon.

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