Canada fires
Canada fires

Hear from SA’s international firefighting heroes

18 Jul. 2023 2 min read

A dedicated team of South Australian firefighters recently travelled to Canada to help tackle the spate of wildfires across the country – read about their experience.

It’s an Australian tradition to help a mate in need – even if that mate lives on the other side of the world.

That’s never been more evident than this year when a team of SA firefighters from National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) put their hands up to help fight a series of wildfires across Canada.

Canada has been experiencing their worst fire season on record where hundreds of fires across the country have burnt millions of hectares.

The first South Australian deployment flew out to Alberta on 26 May 2023 with Phil Sims – Fire Operations Officer Limestone Coast. Phil worked as a Plant Operations Manager supervising heavy machinery in the fire fight and recently returned home.

Hear from SA’s international firefighting heroes

Here’s what Phil had to say about the experience

“The experience was amazing but very challenging at the same time working with a variety of heavy machinery in an unfamiliar environment.

“I was posted to the Pembina complex which was in the Edson area of Alberta. The terrain was quite undulating and swampy in areas which made it challenging for machinery.

“The influence of the Rocky Mountains made for very changeable weather, there were often thunderstorms, and the sun didn’t set until 11pm.

“There were 4 or 5 fires in the complex initially but before long they had almost all joined together with a total size of around 307,000 hectares.

“Across this area there was over 700km of Dozer guard (control line), though in some areas all that could be done was push the trees over and walk on top of them due to the swampy nature of the ground.

“While not making a typical control line, this at least gave some access to the fire edge and changed the fuel arrangement. Nearly all the operators I worked with had stories of machines completely disappearing in swamps and some never to be found again!”

Phil was followed by a further 11 NPWS Brigade members in a range of fireground and incident management roles.

Along with fire they are all encountering wet, boggy conditions, frozen ground, day temperatures ranging from 10 – 23 degrees with cold overnights down to single figures and even minus temperatures this time of the year.

Interested in fire management? Read our blog on why prescribed burns are important in managing national parks.


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