Northern Beaches firefighters are among a team heading to Canada to fight out of control bushfires.
The devastating 2019/20 bushfires in Australia drew support from across the globe, in particular from North America. A hot northern hemisphere summer has seen an outbreak of significant bushfires across North America including the US state of Oregon and the Canadian province of British Columbia.
After a formal request for assistance made by Canadian and US fire authorities, a contingent of 38 firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and NSW State Emergency Service is now heading to Canada to support firefighting efforts there. This follows the recent departure of NSW RFS firefighting aircraft the ‘Marie Bashir’ (main image) to help fight fires in the United States.
Rural Fire Service Acting District Manager for the Northern Beaches, Guy Baddock, said three of the RFS team heading over are from the Northern Beaches; Coal and Candle Brigade Captain Chelsea Varga, Inspector Rolf Poole and Headquarters Brigade Captain Luke Robinson.
“Chelsea works for the RFS, but they are all volunteers. From my perspective I’m certainly proud to see our volunteers deploy and go overseas to help.
“We have a very good availability for our volunteers during times like this [winter]. Two Captains and an Inspector out of our district is a loss but for the time they are going to be away, we have capable people that will step up and be able to fulfil those roles.
“We’re a very good team on the Northern Beaches. We are more than happy to backfill and look after each other and provide the outstanding service we give the community day in and day out,” said Mr Baddock.
According to Mr Baddock the trio departed yesterday (Tuesday, 27 July) and will be on deployment for several weeks.
“They’ll go over, do a few days of briefing and learning about the fires and their roles. In the past they have done 14 days on, 2 days stand down, 14 days on, 3 or 4 days stand down, and then they’ll return and do a two week isolation.
“It’s a solid commitment. Chelsea works for the service, so for her it’s business as usual but Luke is taking several weeks out of his work, and we’re incredibly grateful to his employer. It’s a massive commitment,” said Mr Baddock.
Mr Baddock also revealed that Captain Robinson and Captain Varga had married earlier this year.
“Luke and Chelsea are husband and wife, they are both captains of brigades. Chelsea is Captain for Coal and Candle and Luke is Captain for Headquarters Brigade.
“They were both in the RFS, met and married only this year. To have gone through everything they have gone through and plan a wedding in COVID times is obviously difficult. To get married, go through lockdowns and then deploy overseas is a huge effort,” said Mr Baddock.
One consolation of having to go through two weeks isolation upon returning to Australia should be the ability to spend that time together.
There are currently 263 uncontrolled fires in Canada, mostly in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario. British Columbia has declared a provincial state of emergency.
With Canadian firefighters nationally mobilised and ‘heavily committed’ according to the Canadian Government, our firefighters will provide Incident Management Teams, Divisional and Sector Commanders, Fire Behaviour Analysts and aviation specialists.
Images: NSW Rural Fire Service
Video: Sydney Airport