The fires have been raging across Australia since September. One of the hardest-hit areas is Glen Innes, about a seven-hour drive north of Sydney.
Flames and smoke have filled the air there. At least three people have been killed in the area. It’s also where Kevin Cochrane, a Parksville-based forestry firefighter at the Coastal Fire Centre arrived in early December.
“When we flew into the destination there Glen Innes, where we worked out of, you could see fire all over the landscape,” he said.
Cochrane was one of 21 people from across BC and Canada who went down under to help in the firefight from Dec. 3, 2019, to Jan. 10.
He is an Aviation Specialist who coordinates aircraft as they fight fires. He was tasked with doing the same in Australia as new fires constantly broke out due to lightning.
“So it was finding out which fires required the resources and prioritizing those as quickly as we could and getting them on the fires as quickly as we could,” said Cochrane.
An astounding 257 new fires started in his geographical area during the time he was there.
“We were able to put out 249 of those within the six weeks we were there,” he said.
Cochrane says he did not work with Port Alberni’s Coulson Aviation but was saddened to hear about the crash this week of a Coulson C-130 that was fighting fires.
“It was pretty devastating news to hear that,” said Cochrane. “It’s sad to hear when all the folks who come together to put these wildfires ou, it ends in tragedy.”
Overall, he says it was a very rewarding experience in Australia and another group of Canadians is in Australia now assisting efforts to put out dozens of fires.
At least 28 people have died nationwide and thousands of homes have been destroyed.