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Canadian firefighters expect to use tailored tactics to battle Australia blazes

Last Updated Jan 15, 2020 at 8:25 pm EST

A firefighter keeps an eye on a controlled fire as they work at building a containment line at a wildfire near Bodalla, Australia, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020. Authorities are using relatively benign conditions forecast in southeast Australia for a week or more to consolidate containment lines around scores of fires that are likely to burn for weeks without heavy rainfall. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

HALIFAX — As Canadian firefighters boarded flights today to battle blazes in Australia, they noted they will likely have to employ some different tactics than they do to fight local fires.

In Halifax, the first three of 69 Canadian firefighters heading to the island continent say hotter temperatures and drier conditions call for different measures than typical East Coast fires, where water is plentiful and the advance of the blazes are slower.

Paul Schurr, a wildfire training officer with the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry, says differing weather, topography and ecology affect forest fires, and Canadians are trained to work with all of those variables.

However, the incident commander says the Australian bush fires can spread quickly due to the lack of moisture, and response tactics often include extensive use of heavy equipment to clear gaps in the landscape.

The 50-year-old veteran will be part of a contingent heading towards Vancouver, with plans to land in Melbourne later this week for a month-long deployment.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre says 27 incident management staff are leaving for Melbourne on Thursday, followed by two more incident managers and 40 firefighters on the weekend.

This is the sixth wave of Canadians helping out in Australia, bringing the total number to more than 160 people.

The Canadian Press