A wildfire specialist from Wood Buffalo National Park spent two weeks in September helping the US state of Oregon fight one of its most destructive fire seasons on record.
Ryan Scheer, the park’s assistant fire management officer, was among 25 Parks Canada staff across the country selected to respond to Oregon’s call for help. The Canadian team left on September 17 and returned on October 2.
While Wood Buffalo National Park had just three wildfires this summer, burning only around 65 hectares, Oregon – which is more than five times the park’s size – has seen 909 fires burn more than 124,500 hectares.
“If there’s not much going on where you are, and there’s a need elsewhere, there’s always that chance you could be sent there,” Scheer told Cabin Radio.
“Some of the northern states had a bit of a busy year later in the summer. They had a couple of fires causing them some issues, so they put in a request to CIFFC,” he continued, referring to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, which responds to international calls for assistance.
Scheer said it’s “always a little bit of an adjustment to once you get there … and you just remember that you’re there to help out and do the job.”
“And we do so much training in this job,” he said. “Everyone that got sent is very highly trained so once you get there, it becomes pretty natural. Your training kicks in and takes over.
“My role down in Oregon was task force leader, which means I’m in charge of a group of resources on a section of the fire – very similar to the role I would be filling here in Wood Buffalo.”
He said colleagues and residents in Oregon were “very, very happy” to see Canadian firefighters providing assistance, while the Canadians were pleased to see the state putting in place Covid-19 measures to keep them safe.
“They are one of the states that are taking this pretty seriously,” said Scheer.
“They seemed very on top of the whole Covid-19 situation, and they had a lot of really good mitigations in place to make sure that nobody was getting sick.”