Sixty-two wildland firefighters from Mexico took “Days of Rest” at the Hinton Training Centre (HTC) last week. The firefighters arrived at the facility after firefighting efforts in High Level, and left to fight fires in Peace River on Aug. 2.
According to Rob Galon, Director of Agriculture and Forestry Division, “Days of Rest” are mandatory for wildland firefighters working long hours tackling wildfires. Depending on how many hours the firefighter works determines how many days the firefighter is required to take for rest. This protects firefighting personnel from burning out due to exhaustion.
“It gets pretty stressful, I mean firefighters are working 14 days … 14 hours a day,” explains Galon in an interview.
According to Galon in a follow-up email, personnel, including contractors and emergency hire employees, can work up to a maximum of 18 consecutive days from their last days of rest. An employee’s work hours can be extended if: life and property are imminently threatened, replacement personnel and resources are unavailable and work period extensions have been agreed upon by the employee and their manager.
However, Galon writes that, “Personnel’s health, readiness and capability must be considered prior to extending scheduled hours or work or length of assignment. Health and safety will not be compromised under any circumstances.”
Some of the firefighters from Jalisco, Mexico were in Hinton to train a few years ago at the HTC, according to Galon. This was due to a partnership between the Hinton Training Centre and Jalisco. Previous personnel now joins new firefighters in aiding Alberta with the current wildfire situation.
“Because of the pretty severe wildfire conditions, that situation necessitated that we hire and bring in extra outside help,” says Galon in an interview.
Joan Simonton, Information Officer of Agriculture and Forestry Division, adds that the wildland firefighters from across the province have been working hard to contain wildfires and that, “We’re tapping them out. That’s what’s happening. So we had to call on other resources.”
According to Simonton, these fires have been largely due to an early spring. She explains that during spring and fall is when the majority of fires take place, due to dry and hot weather.
Galon expresses, “We’re appreciative of their efforts. They’ve done a good job for us in the past and we developed a relationship with them for this reason. So it’s working, so we’re happy with that. They’re hardworking guys and gals.”
This week a team from 49 wildland firefighters South Africa will be arriving at the HTC to take their “Days of Rest”. They’ll be staying at the centre from Aug. 2 until Aug. 5.
[“source – hintonparklander.com”]