NWT wildfire staff return from Australia

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Four Northwest Territories wildfire specialists are back in Canada from a one month deployment support the wildfire response in Australia. Severe wildfires have been burning across the country since November 2019.

Spencer Porter, Raelene Lamalice, Jonathan Williams and Marlon Labach were part of a contingent of 28 Canadians sent to Australia in January to help battle the country’s wildfires. The crew had a safe and successful trip, gained experience and provided important aviation and planning support to Australia’s fire suppression efforts. This was the 6th Canadian deployment to Australia this season. 

Three of the NWT personnel were deployed in the state of Victoria, with the fourth (Williams), deployed as an air observer in the state of South Australia. His job was to fly over the fires and take photographs to track their movement.

“These kinds of deployments are going to be more common with climate change,” Williams said, highlighting the need for cooperation, coordination and information exchange, as well as the standardization of roles for wildfire response around the world.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) coordinates the deployment of Canadian wildfire services within Canada and abroad.

NWT wildfire staff were impressed with Australia’s advanced systems and ability to stay organized throughout such a large operation.They also appreciated Australia’s “people first” approach to wildfire management, which ensured that everyone was well cared-for—including families back home.

All four said the experience was one they will never forget, and they look forward to applying what they learned back in the NWT.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources would like to thank the crews for their hard work, care and professionalism during their time on export.