Canadian fire personnel bring expertise in battling rapid forest fires to Australia

19 January 2020

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CANADA/AUSTRALIA – An additional cohort of Canadian firefighters are travelling to Australia and bringing with them a unique set of skills to help battle the country’s wildfires.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) says 40 wildland firefighters and two fire management staff will be in Victoria for a month-long deployment.

Over the last week, 28 Canadian fire specialists and 7 fire aviation specialists arrived in Australia to help crews with command, operations, planning and logistics. In total, 77 Canadians have been sent as of Thursday.

The Canadian fire professionals bring expertise in battling remote and rapid forest fires.

“Some of the Europeans who volunteered don’t have the same experience the Canadians bring in that instance,” Greg Murphy of Emergency Management Victoria told CTV News. “They are very good at putting in control lines and putting them in very difficult areas, working with aircrafts and what we really like is their ability to integrate.”

Since the start of the wildfires late last year, the CIFFC says Canada has sent 172 firefighting personnel to Australia.

“They’ve been fighting the fires for a long time and need a break so it’s good to have people come and allow them a chance to catch their breath,” said Paul Schnurr, a wildlife training officer with the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry.

“To see whatever I can do to help is my number one objective and certainly it’s a learning opportunity for me as a Canadian,” he added.

Schnurr is one of the 28 fire specialists who arrived in Australia earlier this week. He is responsible for overseeing and directing a team of firefighters.

“Canada’s expertise in command and control of wildland fires is second to none around the world,” Kim Connors, executive director of CIFFC, told CTV News Channel in December. “It’s quite common for the U.S. and Canada to share these resources, but this is the first time we’ve gone beyond the U.S.”

Australian firefighters have travelled to Canada and helped crews in 2015, 2017 and 2018. “We are proud to now reciprocate and assist them during this challenging fire season,” says the CIFFC.

Already, the wildfires have destroyed 104,000 square kilometers, reports The Associated Press. Since September, 28 people have died and more than 2,600 houses have been destroyed.

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