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Edmonton firefighter back after 39 days helping in Australia

Morgan Kehr spent 39 days in Australia helping with the bush fire crisis. He was part of the first contingent of 21 Canadians that left early December.
Morgan Kehr spent 39 days in Australia helping with the bush fire crisis. He was part of the first contingent of 21 Canadians that left early December. Cam Cook / Global News

After 39 days in Australia — helping battle fires there — one Edmonton man is back home and sharing his experience.

Morgan Kehr was the senior representative for the Canadian resources down under.

“My job was to make sure our resources were fully employed, their welfare was well taken care of, their skills and qualifications were utilized properly,” he explained.

He was part of the first contingent of 21 Canadians that left early December and stationed at the Emergency Operations Centre in Sydney.

Others were scattered at various fire centres where they worked on incident management team positions.

“When we arrived, they’d already been at it for roughly three months,” he said referring to the firefighters already on the ground.

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“They’re breaking a lot of records on fire sizes, the amount of fire that they are seeing, [and] the spread over the geographic area.”

Kehr noted February is typically the beginning of the fire season in Australia.

“We’re obviously months ahead of that,” he said. “They’re not done yet.’

READ MORE: 77 Canadians on their way to help Australia as wildfires rage on

While the Canadian resources were not working directly on the front lines, Kehr said the intensity of the fires was “awe inspiring.”

“I don’t think it hits home until you actually start driving — you drive for hours through burnt areas or active fire and see the magnitude and size of some of these fires,” he recalled.

The recovery, however, he noticed has already started.

“In eucalyptus forests and stuff there’s a lot of green chutes coming up already,” he said. “It was quite interesting.”

Kehr has now been home for a week. Just before leaving Australia he said the fire behaviour was starting to change.

“The temperatures were dropping, the relative humidity’s were climbing when we left,” he explained.

READ MORE: Lethbridge woman knits items to help injured animals in Australia

“That changes quite fast in New South Wales — faster than what we are used to.”

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Witnessing efforts by people around the world to help Australia, Kehr calls wildfire firefighting “a global business.”

“We work together. We support each other,” he said.

“Nobody can have enough resources for really bad years, so it’s really important we maintain these relationships, partnerships and agreements.”