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Arthur Haynes on Canadian deployment
Officer in Charge of Mornington Fire Station Arthur Haynes was deployed to Canada as a safety officer. He worked entirely on the Mt McAllister fire, living at a demountable base camp housing up to 380 people near the fireline and beside a runway.
The camp was near the logging community of Chetwynd and a key task of the responders was protecting nearby wind turbines, a hydro scheme and electricity lines taking power to Vancouver.
“I was the back-up for the incident controller who was Jon Rofe from DEPI,” said Arthur. “I made sure the comms plans were in place and ensured that all crews working on the fireline fell under the incident action plan.
“We had to ensure that firefighters on the fireline were working within LACES, and a couple of times I came across crews working on the uphill side of a fire in unburnt ground. If the conditions changed, they could have been caught in a fast-moving fire.
“I had to audit all the British Columbia Forest Service [BCFS] crews and contractors: was their PPE appropriate; were their qualifications right; were their tools in good condition; were they certified to use equipment such as chainsaws, just to name a few of the requirements. They’re seasonal workers, not full time firefighters, and some contractors had only done two days training.
“There were two different types of firefighters employed on the fire: the five-pack or person contractor crews, and the BCFS unit crews made up of 20 personnel including dangerous tree assessors, dangerous tree fellers and first aid members as well as firefighters. They form a complete firefighting unit. They were very proud units who stay together all year and give themselves names like the Rhinos, Rattlers and Sentinels.
“The audits I conducted on the camp brought up the issue of black bears and cougars nearby. I didn’t see any cougars but apparently they see you – you don’t see them.
“We learned that moose have very bad eyesight, and you should scare off black bears by making yourself bigger than the bear as an attempted act of intimidation. With a grizzly, you’re supposed to play dead. I’m happy I didn’t have to try that ploy!
“Another different issue was dealing with people on the fireline with guns with some of the contractors also hunters. Moose hunting season began during our deployment and we didn’t have roadblocks for every track in order to keep all the hunters out. They know all the back roads anyway. This meant we had moose hunters in the area of the fire and I got regular reports of gunshots heard.
“There were no fire trucks on the fireline. They work off the black – off anchor points – which limits your ability to attack in force. It’s more mop-up firefighting but the 38-millimetre hose runs for kilometres were very impressive to see.
“The 17 people from Australia on our fire represented at least eight agencies. We achieved a great deal. There was a fair bit of banter between the agencies and the team enjoyed a high level of camaraderie. On the whole we enjoyed ourselves. The Canadians not only performed well under an Australian incident management team but I believe they enjoyed our management style.
“We spent just one day shadowing the Canadians prior to assuming control of the Mt McAllister fire, it was good to see that we had the ability to build a team in a short time, employing different processes than those used at home.
“The deployment enabled strong relationships to be made with personnel from other Australian agencies and valuable contacts were made. There wasn’t one hiccup in the 28 days we spent on the fire.”
Also see the photos attached to Wayne Rigg on Canadian deployment.