Illawarra RFS team to tackle wildfires in Canada

Superintendent Greg Wardle (right) farewells (from left) John Friedman, Steve Smith, Andrew Sweeney and Andrew Toole prior to their departure. Picture: Supplied

Superintendent Greg Wardle (right) farewells (from left) John Friedman, Steve Smith, Andrew Sweeney and Andrew Toole prior to their departure. Picture: Supplied

A handful of Illawarra NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) volunteers were among a 100-strong contingent of specialist firefighters who flew to Canada on Wednesday.

The cohort is the third Australian crew deployed to Canada to assist with a number of large wildfires burning in parts of British Columbia. 

Five Illawarra RFS district remote area firefighters – John Friedman, Steve Smith, Andrew Sweeney, Andrew Toole and Josh Codrington – were among 40 NSW RFS members who left Sydney on Wednesday morning for a 42-day deployment

NSW RFS Illawarra district manager Superintendent Greg Wardle said the region’s firefighters would battle difficult terrain while working alongside Canadian crews. 

“They’re going to be working up to 12 hours a day for 14 days straight before a break, so they obviously need to be at a certain fitness level,” Superintendent Wardle said.

“These guys go through … what we call the arduous pack test.

“They have to wear a 20kg weight vest and they have to walk 4.7km in under 45 minutes to show that fitness.”

The RFS’ remote area firefighting training involves helicopter operations. 

Wednesday’s frontline firefighter deployment is a first for NSW.

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