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Hinton forestry staff to fight fires Down Under

Masha Scheele

Two Hinton forestry staff members are headed to Australia to assist with wildfire suppression efforts.

Marc Freedman and Krista Woods were deployed under specific roles, but priorities may change and they could be assigned to work in a different role, explained Caroline Charbonneau, from Alberta’s Agriculture & Forestry (AAF).

Freedman is working as an Operations Section Chief, tasked with directing all actions to meet the incident objectives.

He is scheduled to meet with an assembled team in New South Wales, said Charbonneau.

Woods is taking on the role as Logistics Section Chief this week and will provide all resources, services, and support required by the incident currently in Victoria.

Freedman works as a Wildfire Prevention Officer for AAF in Hinton, while Woods also located in Hinton, is a forester for the Government of Alberta.

Michael Shantz, an Edson forest officer in the Edson Wildfire Management Area, was also deployed just before New Years as a Planning Unit Leader.  

He was scheduled to assist in Queensland but was re-assigned to New South Wales, assisting with the collection of incident information.

The deployment dates range from 31 to 38 days away, according to Charbonneau.

“The area is very fortunate to have such trained folks right here in our communities,” said Charbonneau.

She added that even though Hinton’s forestry staff didn’t see a busy fire season locally, the forest area exported many wildfire, forestry staff, and seasonal personnel to other parts of the province and other countries.

“I feel like I can speak on everyone’s behalf when I say that Alberta Forestry and Wildfire staff are always willing to help others when needed. Whether they’re exported out of the area to a fire or other incident, or they stay behind to continue on with area workloads,” she said.

The Alberta Wildfire Staff from the Edson Forest Area are specifically trained and certified in many functions of the Incident Command System (ICS), Charbonneau explained.

ICS was developed to ensure that during an incident such as a natural disaster or a wildfire, each person assisting knows their role, and this is often followed internationally.

Through ICS, Canada and Australia can work together seamlessly and effectively, Charbonneau added.

Wildfire firefighting requires specialised training and experience, and many local forestry staff have decades of invaluable experience, she continued.

“This helps us share our resources across forest areas, provincial lines and country boundaries and when we need assistance, they do the same,” she concluded.