U.S. and Canada send additional firefighters to Australia

Canadian fire authorities expect to have 87 firefighters in Australia by January 4

BLM fire employees en route Australia
18  BLM fire management employees were en route to Australia January 1, 2020. Photo via @BLMUtah.

UPDATED at 10:15 a.m. PST January 2, 2020

As we learn about other firefighters from North America traveling to Australia, we will post the information here.


Canadian firefighters Australia
Wildfire personnel from Canada arrived in Brisbane, Australia December 31, 2019. Photo by Canada Down Under.

Originally published at 3:07 p.m. PST January 2, 2020.

Both the United States and Canada have sent additional firefighters to assist with wildfires in Australia after the first wave of 42 arrived down under around December 5, 2019. Another 40 or so arrived before Christmas and both countries are now working out the logistics to deploy more personnel.

The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise announced on their Situation Report December 27 that a total of 32 fire personnel had been deployed to Australia from the United States.

From CBC.ca, December 30, 2019:

Stephen Tulle, duty officer with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, said a group of 15 set out for Queensland Monday, while another 21 will fly out later in the week.

The contingent of Canadian wildfire specialists stationed in Queensland and New South Wales will reach 87 by Jan. 4, he said.

This is the first time Canada has made a co-ordinated effort to send firefighters to Australia, although crews from Down Under have visited here and were vital in helping British Columbia handle widespread wildfires in 2017 and 2018, Tulle said.

Canadian firefighters AustraliaOn December 31, 2019 Andrew Crisp of the Victoria Emergency Management Commission in Australia, said they have ordered additional fire aviation specialists from US and Canada, and firefighters “who can work in remote and arduous conditions”.

The U.S. is putting together another wave. On December 31 a 20-person hand crew was being assembled on the Angeles National Forest in Southern California. Other firefighters from the U.S. may also be deployed. We will update this article as additional information becomes available.

U.S. and Canada send firefighters to Australia

A total of 42 firefighters from North America will be assisting with the suppression of bushfires

Canadian fire management personnel Australia
21 Canadian fire management personnel received a warm welcome at the Sydney airport December 5  from @NSWRFS, @AFACnews, and @canadadownunder. These personnel from Parks, ON, MB, SK, AB & BC, are expected to return to Canada in early January. CIFFC photo.

Australia has just moved into their summer, but firefighters in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria have been dealing with exceptionally large numbers of massive bushfires for weeks.

Canada and the United States are each sending 21 firefighters down under to assist their Australian brothers and sisters.

The U.S. personnel will  be representing the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service. The employees are coming from Alaska, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, Oregon, Hawaii, and Virginia.

The U.S. firefighters departed from the San Francisco International
Airport on Thursday, December 5. The Canadians arrived in Sydney December 5.

This is the first time Canadian firefighters have been deployed to Australia under the Exchange of Wildland Fire Management Resources Agreement.

The last fire assistance between the U.S and Australia was in August of 2018 when 138 Australian and New Zealand wildfire management personnel worked in the U.S. for almost 30 days to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in Northern California and the Northwest. The personnel from the Southern Hemisphere filled critical needs during the peak of the western fire season for mid-level fireline management, helicopter operations, and structure protection.

The last time the U.S sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.

British Columbia initiates wildland firefighter health research

Above: Firefighters in a smoky environment on the White Tail Fire, March 8, 2019, Black Hills National Forest.

Information from the British Columbia Wildfire Service:

VICTORIA – The BC Wildfire Service has provided $305,000 to help fund two research projects looking into the health and wellness of firefighters and associated personnel. The University of Northern British Columbia and the University of Alberta are conducting these studies to learn more about how firefighting activities affect the health of fire crews.

“Our firefighters have worked hard on the front lines to keep British Columbians safe during difficult and record-setting wildfire seasons,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “These studies will help us support their long-term health and well-being.”

Research by the University of Northern British Columbia is led by Chelsea Pelletier, PhD, who is an assistant professor with the School of Health Sciences at the University of Northern British Columbia.

A scoping review will:

  • Look holistically at the existing body of research and knowledge about wildland firefighter health and wellness (including its physical, mental and emotional dimensions) by conducting a global scan of the scientific literature;
  • Identify any modifications (based on the scientific literature and work done by wildfire management agencies elsewhere) that could be implemented in the short term to reduce potential health impacts; and
  • Identify any gaps in the work-related health knowledge of wildland firefighters and associated personnel.

The outcomes of this project and other information will help the BC Wildfire Service establish a long-term research strategy for worker health. This research is expected to be completed in the summer of 2020.

Research by the University of Alberta is led by Nicola Cherry, MD, PhD, who is the tripartite chair of occupational health with the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alberta.

It is also supported by the Alberta government and aims to:

  • Examine the nature and concentration of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in the air that firefighters breathe and accumulate on their skin (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are a suite of organic compounds produced when organic material burns, some of which can be hazardous to human health);
  • Explore the practicality and effectiveness of firefighters using respiratory protective equipment; and
  • Investigate whether wildland firefighters have more chronic lung disease than other people of the same age, gender and geographic location.

So far, about 50 BC Wildfire Service firefighters have taken part in this study. Alberta firefighters are also participating. A progress report on the initial phase of this project should be released in March 2020.

Physical fitness test for wildland firefighters used in Alberta, Canada

This video shows the physical fitness test, WFX-FIT, used to evaluate wildland firefighters in Alberta, Canada.

The Pack Test version of the Work Capacity Test and the Step Test used by the Federal agencies in the United States basically measure how fast you can walk and how low you can keep your pulse rate, respectively. The Step Test was replaced by the Work Capacity Test.

The WFX-FIT used in some areas of Canada, which first saw widespread use in 2012, is described as “a valid job-related physical performance standard used to determine whether an individual possesses the physical capabilities necessary to meet the rigorous demands encountered while fighting wildland fires.” Here is a link to more information about the test.

Your thoughts on the WFX-FIT test?

Wildfire in Northwest Canada above the arctic circle burns well over 100,000 acres

President Trump offered assistance to Russia with their wildfires in the Siberian arctic

Map location Inuvik Fire Northwest Canada
Map showing the location of the Inuvik Fire in Northwest Canada, according to satellite data collected at 10:49 a.m. MDT August 1, 2019.

A wildfire in Canada’s Northwest Territories arctic has burned about 45,000 hectares (112,000 acres) according to the last size estimate by the Northwest Territories Environment and Natural Resources agency. Our very unofficial estimate based on satellite data collected Thursday morning showed that it has increased to approximately 60,000 hectares (150,000 acres).

The fire is burning along the Mackenzie River about 47 miles (77 kilometers) east of Tsiigehtchiceast. Presently there is no threat to that community, officials said. (see map above)

This is happening north of the Arctic Circle, at 67.3 north latitude. The Arctic Circle, which defines the southern boundary of the Arctic, is at 66.5 north latitude. Alaska has also had fires this summer in the Arctic and Russia has had many in the extreme northern latitudes.

According to NPR President Trump discussed the fire situation in Russia with Vladimir Putin:

President Trump spoke with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday and offered U.S. help in fighting widespread forest fires raging in parts of Siberia, according to a Kremlin account of the call.

Putin, in response, expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Trump and said that if necessary, he will accept the offer, the Kremlin said on its website.

Explosive peat moss

Peat Moss Flame
Screenshot from the video below.

In at least one location in Alberta, Canada the peat moss is so dry it can turn to dust when disturbed, and in the presence of sufficient heat and oxygen is damn near explosive.

It’s a good example of the Fire Triangle: Heat + Fuel + Oxygen = Fire

Video courtesy of @whitecourtunitcrew

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.