Page 3361 - Week 09 - Thursday, 24 August 2017

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ACT Fire & Rescue—international deployment

MR STEEL: My question is to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services. Could the minister please update the Assembly on the current deployments of ACT firefighters to support firefighting efforts in Canada?

MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Mr Steel for his question and his interest in supporting our front-line services. As members of the Assembly may be aware, Canada continues to suffer from the worst forest and wildfires in 60 years. More than 860 wildfires have burned across Canada during the northern summer, many of which are still burning.

An estimated 4,910 square kilometres have burned to the ground since the beginning of April. Natural Resources Canada’s national wild land fire situation report indicates that there are currently 138 uncontrolled fires and 151 controlled fires. Over the past few weeks Canada has requested four Australian deployments, which include ACT Parks and Conservation Service staff, ACT Fire & Rescue staff and ACT Rural Fire Service volunteers. At any one point, a maximum of 41 ACT personnel will be deployed to Canada.

ACT remote areas firefighting teams, or RAFT crews, are working on the fire-line edge, predominantly using hand tools and manual firefighting methods. Some crews may be winched in and out of remote areas. RAFT work is physically demanding on the crews, but an essential component in suppressing the fires.

These requests for Australian personnel show both the scale of the fires Canada is facing and the respected reputation of our experienced and well-trained crews.

MR STEEL: Minster, could you also update the Assembly on how this support has been received by the Canadian government and affected communities?

MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Mr Steel for his supplementary. We have been informed that Canadians are very grateful for the assistance from Australian firefighters. Many locals living near the fires where ACT personnel have provided assistance have only recently re-entered their communities after being displaced for over a month. Sadly, some found out only on the weekend whether their homes were saved or lost.

I have been advised that the presence of all Australian personnel has been a welcome distraction to what has become a very long and personal fire for those affected. On behalf of the ACT government and this Assembly I extend my thanks to the ACT personnel who have made both a professional and personal contribution to Australia’s support for our Canadian friends in their time of need.

MS CODY: Minister, can you inform the Assembly how we ensure that the lessons learned from emergency incidents overseas and interstate are put into practice in the ACT?

MR GENTLEMAN: I thank Ms Cody for her supplementary question. The ACT regularly provides assistance to other jurisdictions in times of emergency as part

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