'It's a big world, but a small place': B.C. firefighter returns from fighting bushfires in Australia
VICTORIA -- A B.C. firefighter who returned home after fighting bushfires in Australia over Christmas says ample fuel, combined with dry temperatures, made the fight tough – and the work is far from over.
Most of us see images of flames and smoke dangerously close to homes and may think it's just an out-of-control fire.
But to firefighters like Mark Healey, the goal is to find out where the flames may go. As a planning officer in Australia, his goal was to analyze the weather, topography and fuels to help plan attacks.
Australia's landscape, he says, made that a challenge.
"The gum trees there – the eucalyptus – they have long, stringy bark and they would go into the smoke column and create spot fires sometimes just one or two kilometres away from us," he told CTV News Thursday. "So, of course the spread of the fires was exponential."
Healey's team was in a rural community four hours inland of Byron Bay. He says over the month they were there, 257 fires broke out, and his crew was able to put out 239 of them.
He credits some of his experience from massive wildfire seasons in B.C., where fuel was ample, as key to that.
During 2017 and 2018, Australian firefighters headed to B.C. The province says crews from our province hadn't been asked to help Aussies since 2009.
"We were helpful in the sense they had been fighting fires for essentially three months already and a lot of their people were tired," the Superintendent of Training for the B.C. Wildfire Service added.
Healey says he didn't mind that it was over Christmas either. He was able to FaceTime his family and felt he didn't miss out.
"It's the old adage. It's Christmas time; it's that time to give and let others receive, and that's the way I looked at it."
Plus he says he was happy to return the favour to those who came to help B.C. in a time of need.
"Even though I was in one small area, I ran into people I worked with in 2017-18, so it's a big world but a small place."
As cooler weather helps firefighting efforts in some parts of Australia -- the work to put out the devastating fires continues.
After the fires, says Healey, will come reports and recommendations on how to prevent such a disaster from happening again.