Ontario sends 19 fire specialists to help fight wildfires raging across Australia

Ontario has deployed 19 fire specialists, all from the northern part of the province, to help fight the wildfires raging across Australia.

Record high temperatures and a long drought have combined to create a catastrophic fire season in the southern hemisphere nation. The resulting inferno has caused the deaths of at least 26 people, the destruction of approximately 2,000 homes and killed countless birds, animals and other wildlife.

Officials in the state of New South Wales said the amount of area burned is now 20 times larger than an average year, with flames scorching over 60,000 square kilometres of southeastern Australia.

Fire behaviour analysts sharing expertise

The Ontario group, all from the province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), are serving in a variety of roles, said Jonathan Scott, a MNRF fire information officer.

“These are people who will be working on incident management teams and they’re specialists filling in functions such as logistics sessions chief, fire behaviour analysts, people working with aerial operations, also planning section chiefs.”

Scott said many of the 19 people sent to Australia also have experience fighting fires in Alberta and British Columbia,  and after being briefed by Australian officials on the local situation there will immediately put their training and expertise to work.

“So fire behaviour analysts will determine direction of spread of the forest fires, the intensity and things like that, logistics sections chiefs are responsible for supplying all the forest firefighters and people working with aerial operations could be in charge of managing a helicopter base and stuff like that,” he said.

Ontario fire personnel in Australia since December

Some of the Ontario fire personnel have been working in Australia since early December, while others shipped out as recently as Monday, explained Scott, adding that each person will stay a maximum of 38 days before returning to Canada.

The 19 Ontario firefighters come from the following communities:

  • Kenora… one
  • Dryden… six
  • Sioux Lookout… one
  • Thunder Bay… two
  • Sudbury… four
  • Timmins… one
  • Cochrane… two
  • Haliburton… one
  • Sault Ste Marie… one


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