Rural Fire Service volunteers Lloyd Galloway and Peter Symons are about to fly into hell on earth.
Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia, is facing its worst fire season in nearly 60 years; since April, 861 fires have burnt more than 491,000 hectares, causing a staggering $204 million in damage.
Twenty-year-old Lloyd Galloway could be Australia’s youngest to be deployed. Fresh out of his remote area firefighter course, he’s about to be dropped into the middle of Canada’s fire season.
“Yes, I am nervous,” Mr Galloway said.
“We’ll go to the areas that are burning, find the problems spots and co-ordinate aerial firefighting. We access the areas that are inaccessible by vehicles. You can’t drive a fire truck up a big hill.”
Although young, Lloyd Galloway brings precious expertise gained from years of flight training in his home town of Temora, meaning he will be the ground link to the water bombers above.
The elder statesman of the two, Peter Symons, is a 30 year veteran of the RFS. The Tumut born and bred firefighter has a wealth of experience, spending the past six years as a remote access fire specialist.
“Oh I’m very nervous,” Mr Symons said. “I’m really anxious about it because I’ve never been away from my wife for this long, like I went to Kokoda for two weeks last year, but this is very different.”
Peter’s wife Wendy says the fact her husband is going to fight a particularly aggressive and dangerous fire has yet to sink in.
“It’s been less than a week to prepare so I don’t think we’ve had enough time to think about how dangerous this is going to be,” Mrs Symons said.
“I think he’ll be fine. I just hope they give him back because he’s only got a one-way ticket.”
Other firefighters wanted to go but couldn’t get time off work.
“Lots of people are interested in going but you’ve got to have an very understanding employer to let you just walk out for seven weeks with less than a week’s notice,” Mr Symons said.
“Snowy Hydro should be congratulated for that.”
Both local men will be part of a 100-strong team including 40 RFS firefighters. The RFS said it was the first time Australians were being sent to the fire front.
“I’m taking over a few koala bears to trade with some people,” Mr Galloway said.