Local volunteers, from left, Graham Staples, Cory Rusbatch, Bruce Hampton, Matt Pearless and Steve Packer, at Nelson Airport on Sunday afternoon. The crew will be helping control and put out wildfires that are raging in Canada. Photo: Jessie Johnston.

Firefighters to battle Canadian blaze


The region’s finest firefighters are on their way to Canada to join the battle against out-of-control infernos.

Graham Staples, Cory Rusbatch, Bruce Hampton, Matt Pearless and Steve Packer make up the local crew and are a combination of Tasman Volunteer Rural Fire Force members and Silviculture forestry workers.

“It’s a pretty neat experience, being able to go over and help out and see another country, we’ll be doing the same sort of thing we do here,” says Matt.

Thousands of people have been evacuated from western Canada, with British Columbia suffering the worst damage from a succession of blazes.

“I’ve been to Australia twice to help, but it will be totally different fire behaviour in Canada,” says Graham. “In Australia, we had to actually steer the fire around the settlements because they had no water, so I have no idea what Canada is going to be like.”

Their deployment to Canada will be for one month, starting off with two to three days of orientation when they arrive in Vancouver.

“One of the reasons they have been called in is because the existing resources in Canada are getting tired and over-stretched, so the crew will be on the fire, but it could be a running fire, or it could be mopping up, which is effectively taking over a fire that’s been held or contained and then starting the work of putting it out,” says Ian Reade, principal rural fire officer for Waimea Rural Fire Authority.