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 (B.C.), Canada.
Merimbula-based Simon left Sydney in August as part of a specialist firefighting team to help relieve local crews over the around 40 days.
Eden’s Amba Addinsall and fellow Forestry Corporation firefighters Brian Lynch, Matt Hagon and Dan Allen 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.
“The first two days were intense with crowning fires and direct attack,” Ms Addinsall said.
“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.
“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’s not just rough conditions that are proving a challenge as driving pick-up trucks on the opposite side of the road also testing the firefighters.
“While the days are long and difficult, we have been enjoying working with local B.C. forest officers and plant operators, who have given us valuable insight into fire and forest management practices in Canada,” Ms Addinsall said.
“We’ve also been lucky enough to spot some local wildlife, including squirrels, chipmunks, deer, black bear and grouse.”
Despite enjoying a well-earned rest, the Forestry Corporation crew has returned to the fire front for another 14 consecutive days.
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,” he said.
“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.”
The B.C. fires have been severe, with some local communities displaced for more than a month and many homes lost.
According to the province’s Forest Ministry, the recovery efforts will take at least five years.