It was the kind of warmth they were happy to run to as the region’s firefighters returned to Wagga after five weeks battling Canada’s worst bushfires in 60 years.
Twenty-year-old Lloyd Galloway from Temora, is believed to be the youngest Australian deployed as a remote area firefighter, with the added skills gained from flight training courses in Temora.
“It was absolutely amazing, the best experience ever,” Mr Galloway said.
“We were pulled out early because there was a couple of days where the weather got the upper hand and the fire flared up so we had alternate methods to keep safe,” Lloyd Galloway said.
Both local men were part of a 100-strong team including 40 RFS firefighters sent in an overseas-first to battle a fire front.
They were stationed at the elephant hill fire near Ashcroft and Clinton in Canada’s westernmost province, British Columbia.
Burning since July, the fire jumped containment lines this week, forcing a retreat.
Since April, 861 fires have burnt more than 491,000 hectares, causing a staggering $204 million in damage.
A veteran of hundreds of fires, Peter Symons said the conditions were unlike anything he’d experienced.
“It was very different, both how Canadian’s fight their fires and the fire behaviour; it’s very different to mostly what we see here,” Mr Symons said.
When they were pulled out this week, the fire was only 50 per cent contained.
“It was very hard work, mostly dragging hoses and using hand tools but it was worthwhile and we learned heaps,” Mr Symons said.
Believed to be the youngest Australian deployed to Canada, Mr Galloway used both remote area firefighting and flight training skills.
“I communicated with some aircraft to co-ordinate drops where we wanted them strategically because we only had limited use of the aircraft,” Mr Galloway said.
Mr Symon’s reunion with his wife Wendy was especially touching as the two have rarely had a day apart.
“I’ve got a few days off, and I still have a job to go back to at Snowy Hydro,” said Mr Symons with a laugh.
Mr Galloway’s parents were more than happy to have him back home.
“Oh it’s a relief, it’s a huge relief,” mum Karen Galloway said.
“We’re very proud of him, it’s what he really loves to do but I’m just glad that he’s home safe,”
“He tried to contact us most days, he’d give us a quick text and there was a Facebook page for family and friends to tell us what was happening which was really helpful,” Mrs Galloway said.
“It was very dangerous, but we can’t stop him,” laughed dad Brian Galloway.
The rookie himself was looking forward to doing one thing on his return.
“Go home and have a big sleep,” Mr Galloway said.