Northwestern Ontario is dealing with one of the worst forest fire seasons in years past with over 1000 fires discovered and more than 500,000 hectares burned.
Many firefighters from across Canada, Mexico and Australia have been called to assist Ontario firefighters to battle the many large fires in the region.
The Australian crews were requested by a Canadian agency for incident management teams.
Jeremy Stubbs is the Chief Superintendent with Fire and Rescue of New South Wales and the agency representative for the deployed Australian firefighters in Ontario.
KenoraOnline had the opportunity to interview Stubbs about his firefighting experience in Northwestern Ontario.
“It’s a pleasure and one of the things that we always start by saying is we’re sorry to see the community going through what they’re going through, it’s very challenging times, very similar to what we experience in our bush fire season,” said Stubbs
Many of these firefighters are leaving behind their families, kids, and loved ones but according to Stubbs it’s hard but the experience is worth it.
“The experience that I experienced back in the US in 2019, certainly I didn’t hesitate when I was given this opportunity to come over again,” says Stubbs
“We do miss our families terribly. The way my wife looks at it is that she has one less child when I’m gone and that’s one advantage to her even though she misses me dearly and she has one less meal to worry about,” added Stubbs
The Australian crews arrived in Vancouver last week and embarked on a trip to Thunder Bay where they received a two-day briefing on the fire situation and incident management techniques. After the briefing the crew was split up into two groups, one group was deployed to Kenora and the other group was deployed to Red Lake. Each group was given certain tasks.
Traveling internationally is hard enough but having to travel internationally through the COVID-19 pandemic added more procedures.
All firefighters were required to be fully vaccinated before arrival in Canada and are put through COVID-19 testing regularly.
“It’s pretty challenging but I would also say that the safety systems that we have in place in Australia are also reflected of the safety systems that when we have to turn up into the regional management teams, which is refreshing,” noted Stubbs
Stubbs did add that even though that Canada and Australia are very different from one another the two countries share the same firefighting techniques. Canada, the USA, and Australia work off the same incident management systems.
The Australian crews will be in Northwestern Ontario for approximately 5 weeks working two-week rotations with two days off in between, where they can relax and enjoy the beauty of Northwestern Ontario.
This isn’t the fire time Australian firefighters have been deployed to Canada as Australia assisted Canada in battling forest fires in 2015 and 2017.
Over 200 firefighters from Canada assisted in 2019-2020 as Australia experienced its worst forest season in where 11,264 bush or grass fires burnt 5.4 million hectares and destroying 2,439 homes in the process.
Jay-D Haughton spoke with Jeremy Stubbs this week. Stubbs was located near Bak Lake Ontario and cellphone reception was spotty at times.