After being sent to Canada at the beginning of August, Gloucester’s Emily Smith has returned from fighting wildfires.
According to Emily, British Columbia has been hit with some of the worst wildfires it has ever seen and for the first time NPWS ground crews from Australia were deployed.
Emily, who is a National Parks and Wildlife Services field officer in the Barrington Tops office in Gloucester, was part of a large group of Australians sent to help.
NPWS firefighters are deployed under the NSW cooperative firefighting arrangements, with NSW Rural Fire Service, Fire and Rescue NSW and the Forestry Corporation of NSW.
Emily spent just over a month helping with the Elephant Hill Provincial Park blaze that spread over 170,000 hectares. The fire began in early July, with Cache Creek being evacuated on July 7 as the fire began to move north. When Emily arrived, she was sent to 100 Mile House, 120 kilometres north of the fire’s origin.
After landing in Canada, she spend her first couple nights in Chilliwack, south east of Vancouver, where her group went through a briefing about Canadian road rules, fire fighting protocols and were given some time to recover from jet leg.
“We didn’t realise how good that free time was because we didn’t get much after that,” she smiled.
The group was flown to Prince George, north of the fires, where they picked up vehicles to drive into the fire zone.
On the way, they stopped at a Walmart to pick up camping gear and a woman came over the store’s PA system announcing a ‘big thank you’ to the Australian fire fighters for coming to help.
“Everyone was so thankful we were there,” Emily said.
“I wish I would have taken some photos of all the signs.”
Many residents had made up big thank you signs.
“They were beautiful signs,” she smiled.
Emily spend most of her time in Canada camping in desolate fire zones, like the two weeks she stayed near Clinton is a place referred to as “Dead Mans Flat”.
She was living in a tent that had just “enough room for you and your bag,” Emily described.
Even though she wasn’t on holiday and didn’t get a chance to visit some of the main tourist destinations in Canada, she still had a great time.
“It’s just like Australia,” she said.
“Very easy going.”
After five weeks of very dry conditions, it rained on her last day.
As Australia heads into a severe bush fire season, Emily wants to remind everyone how important it is to have a Bush Fire Survival Plan.
For more information, visit http://www.myfireplan.com.au/