A populated valley burned “wall to wall.” (Submitted photo)

Cariboo air attack officer reports from Australia

“We are flying a lot, bombing fires anywhere from four to nine hours a day”

Jeff Austin, air attack officer for the Cariboo Fire Centre is in Australia to help during their wildfire season.

“I was working as Operations chief during the 2017/18 fire seasons and worked closely with Aussie crews, Aussie aviation specialists and fire behaviour specialists. They sent us quality people and I felt we needed to do the same for them.”

Austin says they work from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day on a five days on two off, five on and one-off schedule. Unlike in the Cariboo Fire Centre, Austin is working as an air attack specialist, he says.

“We are flying a lot, bombing fires anywhere from four to nine hours a day,” he says. “I am on the front lines supporting ground crews from the air.”

Austin supervises and directs two Blackhawk bucket ships, one sky crane, one super Huey and two fire boss skimmer aircraft, he says.

When the Free Press connected with Austin they’d just flown nine hours the day before to deliver 1.3 million litres to the fireline to support ground crews or Firee’s as they’re called there, he says.

“I have been firefighting for 41 seasons all but three based out of the Cariboo. The Chilcotin mainly, which is my home. There are significant differences down here. So, you have to stay flexible.”

Local people have been very appreciative, he says, adding he’s had nothing but positive interactions with people.

“This town I’m in, Merimbula, is just getting residents and tourists back in. It was basically a ghost town when I first arrived, no restaurants for food. [It was] mostly evacuated, not much traffic which helped immensely with learning how to drive the wrong way in round abouts and traffic,” he says. “My wife Jo is holding down the farm during this cold snap and doing fine at it. But 40 days is a long shift.”


newsroom@100milefreepress.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

 

Black ash on beaches at Moruya.

Jeff Austin with his copilot.

Just Posted

The legacy of the Battle of Britain

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 94 marked Battle of Britain Day with a small service Sept. 15

Quesnel golfers make the cut

The Quesnel Golf Club hosted championships for men and women over the past two weeks

North Cariboo Seniors’ Council gathering housing information through surveys

The housing demand and housing supply surveys are available online until Oct. 5.

Quesnel Culture Days takes “careful” approach

The Quesnel Art Walk kicks off Sept. 26

Business battling COVID-19 opens in downtown Quesnel

Shane Wright opened Evolve Gold and Gaming Lounge on Saturday, Sept. 19

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

Liberal effort to reset policy agenda panned by rivals as too much talk, not action

Trudeau said it’s ‘all too likely’ families won’t be able to gather for Thanksgiving next month

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Most Read