North Coast firies to assist with Canadian blazes

28 August 2017

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Canada / Australia -  THREE firefighters from the Northern Rivers have flown to Canada as part of a 100-strong team from NSW and the ACT to help battle severe bushfires in the country's west.

Rural Fire Service volunteers, Neil Coulter of Tuncester RFS, J J Bruce, of The Channon and Toonumbar RFS captain, Tate Bedlington touched down in Chilliwack, British Columbia at the weekend.

Superintendent for RFS Northern Rivers, Michael Brett said all three are highly trained firefighters hand picked to embark on an intensive, six week stint to help their Canadian counterparts combat blazes ravaging the region.

"We wish them well, no doubt they'll do us proud," Supt Brett said.

Before they are inserted into the fire zone, Supt Brett said the crew will undergo a fire briefing and equip themselves for the battle ahead.

He said the 40 RFS volunteers who left on Friday from Sydney were the second cohort of Australian firies sent over to assist.

 Mr Coulter's wife Linda said her husband, who is a retained firefighter with Fire & Rescue Lismore, has spoken to her husband since his arrival.

"He sounded in high-spirits ... I think he's looking forward to getting there and getting into it," Mrs Coulter said.

Days into his deployment, Mrs Coulter said she is already looking forward to his return to Australia.

"I miss him terribly, we aren't used to being apart," Mrs Coulter said.

She said he saw the trip as "a real opportunity" to build on his already comprehensive emergency services experience.

 As well as his voluntary work with the RFS, Mr Coulter also volunteers with the Lismore City SES unit.

Local controller, Melinda Mapstone said she was surprised Mr Coulter hadn't already been called to help with Canadian bushfires.

She said he was "an adrenaline junkie" and a very valued asset to the Lismore City unit as one of the deputy controllers as well as a level three technician, meaning he is heavily involved in flood rescues.

"We wish him well and safe travels. We want him back in one piece," Ms Mapstone said.