The first group of Canadians that went over to fight the country’s 2019-2020 wildfires were from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and various federal parks. (Courtesy of Kevin Cochrane)

‘We could see fire all over the landscape’: Vancouver Island man recounts helping crews in Australia

Kevin Cochrane of the Coastal Fire Centre spent 38 days Down Under

Kevin Cochrane has returned to Parksville after 38 days of co-ordinating firefighting efforts in Australia.

The Coastal Fire Centre wildfire aviation technician was part of the first deployment of Canadian firefighting experts sent to combat raging wildfires in the southeastern part of Australia.

Cochrane said he realized through watching the news the severity of the situation in Australia, and volunteered to go in the event of a call for help from Canadian fire experts.

Sure enough, the request for resources came through, and on Dec. 3, 2019 he flew out of Parksville, alongside firefighters and experts from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“Being through that type of situation here, back in B.C., with some busy fire years over the past five years, I had a pretty good idea of what they were going through and knew the kind of help that they needed. It was an easy decision,” said Cochrane.

“Our flight in, we could see fire all over the landscape, pretty much. Very smoky.”

The crew he was on worked 12-to-14 hour days, working a rotation of five days on, one day off, and five days on, two days off.

READ MORE: Canada will consider more aid for Australia as bushfires burn across country

“We were kind of thrown right into it, which was pretty much to be expected with everything they had going on there. So there wasn’t a lot of time to get settled in there. It was down there, got our briefings, then right into work,” said Cochrane.

Cochrane worked as an air operations manager, co-ordinating the deployment of planes that worked to battle the fires that continued to grow. He and his team were based out of Glen Innes, approximately 600 kilometres north of Sydney, in the province of New South Wales.

“Everybody was really upbeat, everybody was really focused. Everybody was really aware of basically what was at stake, the amount of fires that were out there, the amount of resources or infrastructure that was threatened – there was certainly a real co-ordinated effort among all the folks within the fire centre,” said Cochrane.

“It seemed that they were quite happy to have us Canadians down there to give them a hand. They were constantly giving us their praise for us being able to come down, and giving them a hand and helping them out in the way that we did. It was always good to hear the positive feedback coming from those folks as well.”

In the six weeks Cochrane was in Australia, 257 new fires broke out. Cochrane estimates their crew was able to put out around 245 of them.

“It feels really good. Any time you can help out folks that are in that desperate a need, it really does make you feel good that you’re able to do that. And we heard over and over again the thanks and appreciation from just the average people on the streets, to the coworkers that we were working with,” said Cochrane.

”I would do it again any time for sure.”

emily.vance@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Australia firesfirefightersParksville

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

Campbell River Remembrance Day Ceremony 2019. Campbell River Mirror file photo
Campbell River Remembrance Day Ceremony to go ahead in reduced form

Public asked not to attend; event will be streamed on social media, Shaw TV

Father Charles Brandt, a hermit priest. File Photo
Black Creek environmentalist and Catholic priest-hermit Father Charles Brandt passes away

He devoted his life to protecting and preserving natural habitats

Two suspects seen outside of Gord Knight Auto on Oct. 27 at around 4:15 a.m. Campbell River RCMP are looking for information on these suspects’ identities. Photo supplied by RCMP
RCMP look for suspects in break-in cases

Two suspects caught on surveilance video

Campbell River RCMP. RCMP photo
Police investigation results in multiple property crime charges

A Campbell River RCMP investigation has lead to multiple property crime charges… Continue reading

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Search and Rescue save dog from icy Cowichan River

Search and Rescue’s swiftwater team was called in

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

Most Read