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American and Canadian firefighters to boost Victoria’s regional firefighting effort

Premier John Brumby today welcomed an expert team of 15 forest firefighters from the United States and Canada who arrived in Victoria to boost the state’s firefighting capacity.

Brumby said the international firefighters were an important addition to be unprecedented resources being deployed as part of Victoria’s largest ever firefighting effort.

They join 700 seasonal firefighters, 2700 Department of Sustainability (DSE) fire staff and 59,000 Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers, including 3100 who have joined since the Black Saturday fires.

“There has never been a greater effort to make our state as fire-safe and as fire-ready as possible and while Victoria already has very skilled CFA and DSE firefighters we know we can benefit from working with international experts through the sharing of knowledge,” Brumby said.

“Our Government and fire agencies have been rolling out new measures and improvements to better protect Victorians and our emergency services are being backed by a record budget.

“The Canadians and American experts bring with them vast knowledge of firefighting and will continue what is an ongoing information exchange on specialist firefighting with our local forces this fire season.

“These international firefighters have skills and experience they will share in areas such as working with aircraft, environmental recovery after fire, risk assessment and fire prediction.”

Over the next two days the 15 experts will receive induction training and equipment before being deployed to various parts of regional Victoria.

They will be posted to Orbost, Traralgon, Woori Yallock, the Otways, Bendigo, Ballarat and Alexandra and work with firefighters from across areas served by those centres.

Department of Sustainability and Environment Chief Officer Ewan Waller said the information exchange between the United States and Canadian personnel and Victorian firefighters would benefit all countries.

“The program will increase the state’s level of preparedness and ensure Victoria has access to more personnel in leadership and technical roles to cope with the worst fires. It will provide an opportunity for all our countries to learn from the skills and expertise of the other,” Mr Waller said.

“This deployment follows an initial visit in December by an international team which spent two weeks developing an action plan. This second contingent will now spend the rest of the 2010 fire season in Victoria.”