Update from local forestry firefighters on 42-day Canada bushfire deployment

Sharing a campsite with close to 300 firefighters, long shifts and extremely steep terrain are some of the challenges Forestry Corporation firefighters are facing during their 42-day deployment to the southern end of the Elephant Hill fire in British Columbia, Canada.

Forestry Corporation’s Amba Addinsall from Eden, Brian Lynch from Walcha, Matt Hagon from Grafton and Dan Allen from Casino are in Canada as part of a 100-strong Australian taskforce, alongside Rural Fire Service and National Parks and Wildlife Service firefighters.

Ms Addinsall said the crews had spent 14 consecutive days working minimum 12-hour shifts in intense firefighting conditions and before enjoying a well-earned short rest and recovery break then returning to the fire front for another 14 consecutive days.

“The first two days were intense with crowning fires and direct attack. Due to our expertise in heavy plant management, the Forestry Corporation crew was tasked with containing spot fires using a skidder and water tank and we worked closely with aircraft water bombing,” Ms Addinsall said.

“There was an uncontained fire edge that had to be mapped with GPS and we needed to do reconnaissance in extremely steep terrain, including canyons, to develop containment strategies. It has also been a challenge driving big pick-up trucks on the opposite side of the road.

“While the days are long and difficult, we have been enjoying working with local BC forest officers and plant operators who have given us valuable insight into fire and forest management practices in Canada. We’ve also been lucky enough to spot some local wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks, deer, black bear and grouse.”

Mr Hagon said while the days were hard and the novelty of sleeping in tents had worn off, they were learning valuable lessons working with local crews.

“We have performed many tasks over here in a range of different environments. The scenery here is spectacular and we have enjoyed working with the locals learning not only about their way of firefighting but also their timber industry and local way of life,” Mr Hagon said.

The BC fires have been severe, with some local communities displaced for more than a month and many homes lost. The community is grateful for the international assistance to take the pressure of local firefighters and help bring the fires under control.

The Forestry Corporation firefighters deployed to Canada are highly trained and have years of firefighting experience, including in steep country and pine forests similar to those in north America.

Forestry Corporation is responsible for more than two million hectares of native and plantation forests and has been formally involved in firefighting in NSW for 100 years.

Media contact: Elizabeth Fowler 9407 4265/ 0408 779 903