As wildfires continue to scorch Australia, an Edmonton man couldn’t sit back watch while firefighters risk their lives.
With no concrete plan, Dan Derouin decided to take a trip down under and follow the smoke.
Derouin is currently a councillor with Sturgeon County near Edmonton and served as a firefighter with the city of Edmonton for over 30 years.
After fighting fires for three decades, it was in Dan’s nature to think about how he could lend a hand.
“A person really wanted to help the guys out, it’s a simple thought to start with, just to go over and relieve somebody and take them out of that fire situation so they can get home spent time with their wife — even wash their gear,” Dan explained.
“You know, just take a breather.”
While the thought may have been simple, the logistics of executing the plan were not.
Derouin reached out to fire stations in Australia, but they were too busy and couldn’t accommodate him. Despite just having his knee replaced and no specific plan, he made a bold decision.
Paying for the trip out of his own pocket, he finally arrived in Australia but had a tough time finding who to join or where to go.
“I had a car rented so I just started heading south towards the fire,” he said.
“The smoke at 4:00 in the afternoon, you couldn’t see two feet in front of your face, so at that point in time I felt I was going to be part of the problem,” Derouin explained.
After finally getting in contact with fire personnel, the local fire chief found a place for him.
“He sent me to Adaminaby and that’s where I went,” Derouin said.
“I went and joined the boys there on the ground and they put me to work right away.”
While the fight was intense, there were also moments of beauty, seeing all sorts of wildlife and even a chance to work alongside a well-known Australian.
“The ex-prime minister of Australia, he’s a firefighter, Tony Abbott,” Derouin said.
While Derouin could have taken time to shop and visit sites, he instead gave every minute of his trip to help fight fires up until his departure.
“I hope I made a difference, even talking to the guys, giving them some encouragement, being with them every day,” Derouin recalled.
“They were surprised that I stuck out, actually.”