Local firefighter Matt Goldman departed Sydney for Vancouver on Tuesday afternoon as part of a multi-agency response to help fight the catastrophic wildfires currently raging in western Canada.
The Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) received a formal request from the Canadian interagency Forest Fire Centre earlier this month. An incident management team from NSW and WA totalling 65 personnel includes 10 members from Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW).
Members were chosen for their skill and current COVID-19 vaccination status.
"Each of them has specialist skills in incident management and will provide relief to the Incident management teams that have been working vigorously since April," said New England North West FRNSW zone commander Supt Tom Cooper.
"Matt is the leading station officer based at Armidale Brigade and is the only one to be chosen from our zone, so I'm very proud of him.
"He put his hand up to go, and he fits the criteria and for AFAC to recognise those skills in someone from our team is great. It is also good for our emergency services to have someone of his calibre in the community.
"Matt was very involved with the Black Summer Bushfires in Glen Innes and other parts of the state, so he will take that experience with him, and he will also learn a hell of a lot of new skills, which he'll bring back to us."
Supt Cooper said the deployment was a wonderful opportunity to return the favour of the Canadians that supported Australia during the 2019-20 bushfire season.
Mr Goldman and the rest of the team gathered in Sydney this week to attend briefings, equipment familiarisation, and final fitness checks.
Then, after a final briefing on Tuesday afternoon with the Commissioner of FRNSW Paul Baxter, they boarded a chartered Air Canada flight to Vancouver where they will be tasked to the wildfires in British Columbia or Ontario.
The six-week deployment will be for 30 days in the field and includes a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon return to Australia.
Although it means leaving his wife and two daughters in Australia, Mr Goldman said he was looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead and is grateful for the opportunity to represent his country and his local community.
Western Canada has been experiencing hot, dry weather with large fires burning in British Columbia and Ontario provinces, decimating more than one and one quarter billion hectares.
Northwest Ontario alone has more than 130 forest fires, with the province issuing emergency orders for the North West.
Extreme fire danger exists across much of the central and western portions of the country, with little relief in sight.
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