Brett Bowden traveled to Canada to learn their firefighting methods
Published Date: 18 Sep 2014
The Canadians do not use fire trucks. Bush firefighters are all paid and they work 14 days straight.
The last five weeks of firefighting in Canada were an eye opener for veteran Canobolas Rural Fire Service (RFS) Superintendent Brett Bowden who was part of an 81-person Australian emergency services contingent, that helped combat the bushfires in British Columbia.
BATTLE PLAN: Superintendent Brett Bowden (in yellow) attends a briefing on how best to tackle fire 221.
It was a long five weeks, long days and away from his family but ultimately he said he was glad he had the experience.
But he would not trade his current position for one in the north.
"I've been interstate for firefighting and now I've been to Canada.
"And while all the other states, and in Canada, their method of firefighting might suit their environmental conditions, the NSW RFS has one of the best firefighting models with the volunteer component, and certainly with the operational system we have," he said.
In British Columbia the terrain is mountainous which made the use of trucks impossible but the benefit of the terrain is there are regular water holes.
Firefighters used kilometres of hoses, and water pumps to fight fires rather than water stored in trucks.
Superintendent Bowden said crews had around 1200 kilometres of hose for around 20,000 hectares of fire and he saw one hose he thought was about 12 kilometres long.
"They said it was dry but it was nothing like what we would say is dry here," he said.
The fire that Superintendent Bowden was sent to, had been raging since June 6 when his crew took control of it on August 12.
Crews would start work at around 6am daily and crawl into bed, only metres away from the command centre, after about 14 hours of strenuous firefighting.
The other notable difference was the level of competitiveness between the young men, he said.
"I think it's great to have that level of competitiveness and that energy," he said.
"It's a young man's game."
After five weeks on the fire ground, Superintendent Bowden was grateful for a few days of rest and relaxation before he started work again back in Orange.
"Those long days really took it out of me."
The Canobolas bushfire danger period starts in about two weeks on October 1.