NEWS

B.C. fires get much needed help from Australian firefighters

07/23/2015 03:37 EDT | Updated 07/23/2016 05:59 EDT
B.C. firefighters have had their hands full fighting the over 1,300 blazes that have broken out across the province this year and once again, they're getting help from colleagues Down Under.

Australia has sent over 104 fire firefighters to assist during Canada's peak wildfire season in a partnership with the two countries.

"It's a great program that Canada and Australia have begun and it's been happening for some years now," Alistair Drayton told the Early Edition's Rick Cluff.

Drayton, who is from the Australian state of Victoria, is currently acting as an incident controller working to control the Cougar Creek fire 60 kilometers from Hope. He says he's admired B.C.'s ability to control fires.

"I got to say, us Australians got some steep country down there but nothing like you folk here and we're really impressed with what you folk can do up here."

Due to the opposite conditions between countries from the north and south hemisphere, the timing of fire seasons make it possible for both Canada and Australia to share resources and personnel.

"We have a similar framework. You folk over here call it NIMS (National Incident Management System), back home we call it the Australasian Incident Management System and it's a very similar framework that allows both countries to assist each other.

"Particularly we have different seasons in the different hemispheres at the time of the year. Back home right now it's winter so all our fire fighting personnel are either resting or training and so we're available to come and assist."

Firefighters share unique camaraderie

The program also extends into the United States where Australian firefighters are also currently situated.

Drayton says though their nationalities are different, there is a unique camaraderie among all the individuals.

"We have an attitude where we're prepared and happy to help. This is what we do, what we're trained for. If we can apply that to help people, community and the environment, we're more than happy to be willing and ready to come over.

"It's a unique environment to be in. Each time we come across here… the open arms and the willingness to provide every opportunity for us and absolutely everything possible has been made available to us by the Canadian fire authorities."

Drayton says he expects the favour is likely to be returned come Australian fire season as much of the country is expecting to experience a similarly hot and dry summer. He adds that the adversity only further strengthens the bond between the two nations.

"I think we need to continue to support each other. We're having another dry year [in Australia] like you... we know the arrangements we have between the countries is such that we can call on each other to assist in times of need.

"We're becoming stronger and better friends doing this."

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