Aussie team deployed to Quesnel


Observer Reporter

Alison Martin had five days to put her life on hold, pack for an extended period of time out of the country, and get on the aircraft flying her and 52 other Australians to B.C. They were chosen based on skills, experience, availability and preparedness for overseas deployment.

The 53 individuals, which are part of various incident management teams, are also part of the larger Australian National Services’ Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, from which the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre requested assistance with B.C.’s raging wildfires.

Martin is no stranger to quick deployment, having worked with the South Australia Fire Service for the past two and a half years, but she was thrilled to be chosen as part of this incident management team and to come to Canada. In her home state of South Australia, fire is no stranger. This is the driest state and although much of Australia is susceptible to wildfires, her state certainly sees its fair share.

“We have very large, fast moving fires,” she said.

“The largest I’ve worked on so far was 85,000 hectares.”

The 53 experts from Australia each have a specific job to do on the team, including Martin who is responsible for disseminating information.

“I liaise with businesses, homeowners, forestry service, media and other stakeholders,” she said.

“The rest of the team acquires the data and I then deliver it out.”

Other positions on the team include logistics, planning, fire behaviour analysis, operations, aviation and an incident commander who co-ordinates everything.

After arriving in Canada on July 19, the team spent two days receiving in-country briefings (which included differences and similarities between the two countries). They then drove up through the fire-ravaged Cariboo and arrived in Quesnel, a town they’d never heard of before.

“I’m deployed to fires in South Australia around towns I’ve never heard of either, so it’s nothing new, but being here is like a vacation – although I’m working, it’s still a beautiful community,” she said.

For several of the team members, its their first time in Canada.

Thanks to the geographical position of Australia, Canada’s summer is its winter season, so that allowed the deployment of the incident management team to Canada.

It’s the job of the incident management team to collect data and relay that to the B.C. Fire Service and others tasked with fighting the fires.

Some team members do aerial reconnaissance and evaluate various other aspects of fires, but they are not fire fighters.

Quesnel airport is also home to hundreds of fire fighters and the Quesnel Fire Centre. They are tasked with all fires east of the Nazko River.

Martin said they expect to be in Quesnel for two weeks (currently they are transitioning with the outgoing B.C.-based incident management team). They’ll then have two days rest, with the potential of another two-week deployment depending on the wildfire situation.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Spotlight shines on dancers at Quesnel Festival of Performing Arts

Hundreds of dancers performed during the Dance Festival Feb. 14-17

Rotary Club of Quesnel’s first Walk for Water raises nearly $3,000

The money will be split between the Baker Creek Enhancement Society and the Roll-A-Hippo Foundation

Cariboo Regional District encourages Maple Drive residents to attend March 3 meeting about streetlights

Options for providing lights to improve safety include establishing a new taxation service

Ranch Musings: Encouraging the next generation

David Zirnhelt says balancing business and lifestyle may help the next generation stay on the ranch

Mighty Pucks beat Leftovers in Quesnel high school floor hockey overtime thriller

The Benchwarmers and Nordiques also pick up wins in Week 3

VIDEO: Illicit drug overdoses killed 981 in B.C. in 2019, down 38%

Chief coroner says figures were down about a third in the province’s fourth year of the opioid crisis

VIDEO: B.C.’s seventh coronavirus patient at home in Fraser Health region

Canada in ‘containment’ as COVID-19 spreads in other countries

B.C. takes over another Retirement Concepts senior care home

Summerland facility latest to have administrator appointed

RCMP pull office from Wet’suwet’en territory, but hereditary chiefs still want patrols to end

Chief says temporary closure of field office not enough as Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute drags on

Prescription opioids getting B.C. addicts off ‘poisoned’ street drugs

Minister Judy Darcy says Abbotsford pilot project working

Royals, Elvis, Captain Cook: Hundreds of wax figures find new life in B.C. man’s home

Former director of Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum still hopes to revive wax figure tourism

Teck CEO says Frontier withdrawal a result of tensions over climate, reconciliation

Don Lindsay speaks at mining conference, a day after announcing suspension of oilsands project

Okanagan man swims across Columbia River to evade Trail police

RCMP Cpl. Devon Reid says the incident began the evening of Thursday, Feb. 20

‘Hilariously bad’: RCMP looking for couple with forged, paper Alberta licence plate

Mounties said the car crashed when it lost a wheel but the duo ran away as police arrived

Most Read