Canada / Australia — With wildfire activity increasing throughout the province announced today that a contingent of specialized wildfire personnel from Australia will be coming to BC to assist with wildfire response.
About 80 personnel are scheduled to arrive in Vancouver in several groups from Saturday, August 9 through Monday, August 11. They include two Type 1 Incident Management Teams (10 people each), incident commanders, fire behaviour specialists, aircraft co-ordinators and support staff. BC has not requested ground crews from Australia.
These personnel will be deployed throughout the province, based on current and anticipated wildfire activity. They could remain in BC for up to five weeks.
The Australians’ expertise will help maintain the Wildfire Management Branch’s high success rate for containing new fires. They will also augment the response to existing fires by allowing BC to redeploy more experienced personnel to higher priority fires, and by allowing BC personnel to take mandatory days off so they can begin another cycle of fire suppression operations.
British Columbia has fostered a mutually beneficial wildfire management relationship with Australia for over 15 years and has had a resource-sharing agreement in place with the State of Victoria for over a decade. This agreement allows for the exchange of personnel, knowledge, skills, equipment, technology and mutual support in the event of an emergency. The cost of bringing in the Australians will be covered by BC.
Wildland fire personnel from B.C. were deployed to Australia in 2007 and 2009 to help respond to busy fire seasons there, since the height of the Australian fire season typically occurs during B.C.’s winter and spring months. Personnel from Australia and New Zealand also were deployed to BC to assist with firefighting efforts in 2009.
These personnel will join more than 1,600 provincial staff, 860 BC contractors and over 200 out-of-province personnel already actively engaged in fire suppression in British Columbia.
Hot and dry weather conditions have once again elevated the fire danger rating throughout the province. Most of BC is currently experiencing a ‘high’ to ‘extreme’ fire danger rating, which means that forest fuels are easily ignited. Firefighting crews are on standby in all six of BC’s fire centres in preparation for an anticipated increase in fire starts over the next few days.
The Wildfire Management Branch has responded to over 1,000 wildfires so far this season. Most of these fires were caused by lightning and serve as a reminder that as lightning activity increases, extra caution is needed to prevent person-caused wildfires. Each person-caused fire diverts critical resources away from lightning-caused fires.