Provincial Wildfire Coordination Centre
KAMLOOPS – With wildfire activity increasing throughout the province, Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Minister Steve Thomson announced recently that a contingent of specialized wildfire personnel from Australia will be coming to B.C. to assist with wildfire response.
About 80 personnel were scheduled to arrive in Vancouver in several groups from Saturday, Aug. 9 through Monday, Aug. 11. They include two Type 1 Incident Management Teams (10 people each), incident commanders, fire behaviour specialists, aircraft co-ordinators and support staff. B.C. 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 B.C. 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 B.C. to redeploy more experienced personnel to higher priority fires, and by allowing B.C. 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 B.C.
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 B.C. to assist with firefighting efforts in 2009.
These personnel will join more than 1,600 provincial staff, 860 B.C. contractors and over 200 out-of-province personnel already actively engaged in fire suppression in British Columbia.
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.
Report a wildfire or unattended campfire by calling 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone. For the latest information on current wildfire activity, burning restrictions, road closures and air quality advisories, go to www.bcwildfire.ca