Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, has issued the following statement regarding the deployment of BC Wildfire Service staff to Australia:
“On Dec. 3, 2019, the BC Wildfire Service will send seven of its operational personnel to Australia to assist with firefighting efforts there, as part of a contingent of 22 Canadians.
“It’s only late spring in Australia, but an early and extreme wildfire season in the eastern part of the country has already stretched Australia’s firefighting resources and led to fatalities, property losses and the destruction of large areas of New South Wales and Queensland. Currently, Australia has about 1,100 firefighters working on its wildfires.
“The Australian government has reached out to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre for assistance, and British Columbia will deploy some of our highly trained wildfire services staff. We are sending seven people, including the following:
- planning section chief (1): oversees the gathering of incident-related data and the analysis of wildfire operations and resources;
- operations section chief (2): supervises organization elements in accordance with the incident action plan and directs the execution of that plan;
- airtanker group supervisor (2): co-ordinates assigned airtankers at the wildfire incident;
- air operations branch director (1): responsible for preparing the air operations portion of the incident action plan and providing logistical support to aircraft; and
- heavy equipment branch director (1): supervises, manages and prioritizes the allocation of heavy equipment, based on fire activity and requests for assistance.
“The Canadian contingent is expected to depart from Vancouver on Dec. 3, 2019, for a 38-day deployment, with an anticipated return date of Jan. 10, 2020. They will fly into Sydney and initially will be deployed in the state of New South Wales. Given that Australia is only entering its summer season, the need to deploy additional British Columbian and Canadian resources to assist in the coming months remains a possibility.
“This is the first time since 2009 that Australia has asked for firefighting support from Canada. During British Columbia’s devasting 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons, Australian fire personnel responded to our calls for assistance through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. We greatly appreciated their assistance during those difficult years, and we welcome the opportunity to help out our Australian friends now.
“I personally thank the BC Wildfire Service staff who are being deployed to Australia. Their willingness to be deployed out of the country during the holiday season is a testament to their dedication and professionalism.”