Monday, June 24, 2024

Queensland rangers return from Canadian fire-line

Five Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) rangers have returned home after spending a month in Canada fighting wildfires raging across Alberta.

The firefighters were the first rangers in Queensland’s history to support an international disaster response, taking their unique bushfire management skills to where they’ve been needed most on a global level.

The rangers deployed were:

  • Ranger in Charge Rob Miller, Mareeba (Northern region)
  • Ranger in Charge Paul Bufi, Cairns (Northern region)
  • Technical Support Ranger John Hand, Gold Coast (Southeast region)
  • Fire Ranger Tim Baker, Toowoomba (Southwest Region)
  • Ranger Darrell Bell, Gympie (Southeast region)

The group spent the past month battling fires near the remote community of High Level in northwest Alberta, about 760km north of Jasper.

Facing cold weather, rain and fire, rangers worked with heavy machinery and chainsaws to clear much-needed fire breaks and access tracks from vegetation that could stop emergency vehicles.

Rangers also worked on the fire-line fighting the blaze with hoses and water from local water points to suppress the flames and manage hot spots. They also conducted backburns to manage fuel loads and prevent out-of-control fire from spreading further.

QPWS rangers and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services personnel worked alongside firefighters from across Australia and New Zealand, as well as crews from Canada, the USA, South Africa, France, Spain, South Korea, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile and Brazil.

Following this first deployment, QPWS says it is now in a position to deploy rangers for future international wildfire operations on a case-by-case basis.

Mareeba Ranger in Charge, Rob Miller said the experience of firefighting in report Canadian forest country was like no other.

“Fighting fires in diverse weather conditions was a bit of a shock to the system, especially coming from Far North Queensland,” Ranger Miller said.

“We had different elements to think about as part of our response like getting bogged and not getting too cold as well as not overheating.

“The whole crew really pulled together to work around these extra challenges, I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

He said the experience he gained on deployment was invaluable.

“Not only was it special to be in a position where we could help a community on the other side of the world facing such a big disaster, but it gave us an opportunity to see how other parts of the world respond to wildfires,” he said.

“We’ve all come home with new experiences under our belts and fresh perspectives from some of the world’s best firefighters.

“It was heartwarming to see firies from across the world pitch in to help, it really showed how these types of disasters can have a global impact, especially on places like Queensland where we’ve been through similar situations ourselves.”

The rangers will now return to their duties and continue to plan for Queensland’s upcoming bushfire season.

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