Two Manitoba fire experts received a warm welcome home at the Winnipeg airport Jan. 9, after spending six weeks fighting the raging wildfires in Australia.
Gerry Rosset and Andrew Prokopchuk were working on the incident management and operations team in New South Wales, just south of Sydney.
They said the wildfires were like nothing they’ve ever seen before.
“The fire behaviour ranged from moderate to almost what they call catastrophic,” Rosset told reporters at the airport.
“So on the high end of the scale, fire behaviour was extreme on several days while we were there.”
“We had some days driving to work it was like 5 o’clock and it was like the sky was dark, street lights were on,” said Prokopchuk.
“So yeah, it was quite different than we’ve ever experienced, for sure.”
They say the fire they were working on spanned about 400,000 hectares and grew daily.
“I’m just glad we don’t get fires like that,” said Prokopchuk. “Fuel types are totally different.”
They both say wildfires in Australia are different than wildfires they’ve dealt with in Canada.
“We wouldn’t expect hardwood to burn the way it did there,” said Rosset.
The pair are two of 21 firefighters returning to Canada this week. Another 21 Canadians left for Australia last weekend, followed by eight more on Monday.
Both Rosset and Prokopchuk sacrificed their holiday time to fight the flames down under, but both say it was worth the sacrifice.
“All the staff that we’d work with, the public, any place we’d go, people would want to hug us, there was tears, we were well-received. Felt very much appreciated,” said Prokopchuk.
“We would likely go again if we were asked to,” added Rosset.