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Firefighters, International Deployment

The Hon. C.L. WINGARD (Gibson—Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services, Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing) (14:23): I thank the member for the question and note the member for Newland has a very keen interest in particular in the CFS but all the emergency services in our state. I was pleased but not surprised to learn this week that the Country Fire Service in addition to the MFS and SES and the Department for Environment and Water was approached to assist firefighters in the United States...

Just a short time ago before entering the house, I was made aware of another request for a team of specialists, which has been made for deployment to British Columbia to help with Canadian wildfires. This is now in the planning stage and I will have more to say about that and the participation in that in the next few days.

Getting back to the first request for assistance to the United States, this was made to all states and territories and New Zealand to assemble a team comprising more than 180 firefighters. The CFS identified two specialist staff with another who will be seconded from the Department for Environment and Water. They will leave tomorrow for a briefing in Sydney before heading to the United States for a 42-day deployment. This reflects favourably on the capability and expertise in our workforce in South Australia, who will no doubt provide valuable assistance towards a long and protracted firefighting effort in the United States.

There have been more than 130 significant fires burning in the north-west of the United States that have swept through more than 376,000 hectares across 14 states between Texas and Alaska, and into Canada. These devastating fires have also sadly claimed the lives of two firefighters along the way. So, when it came out this week to tap into our firefighting resources, our emergency services swung into action to provide much-needed assistance for this effort. The two specialist CFS firefighting staff who will be deployed to California after being briefed in Sydney tomorrow are Dyson Taverner and Phillip Tapscott, and from the Department for Environment and Water, Mr Ross Anderson. Their deployment will add to two other CFS staff who are already in Melbourne at the Emergency Management Victoria base helping to coordinate the Australia-New Zealand deployment contingent.

The CFS has approximately 150 full-time employees, and this request from the United States required a very specific skill set for highly qualified firefighters for a 42-day deployment. As you would understand, 42 days away from home and working in these sorts of conditions is a very, very big ask. The CFS balanced its operational requirements while preparing for the forthcoming fire danger season but was also keen to provide assistance without impacting on its planning commitments. This is something that is not foreign to our emergency services, with the CFS and MFS previously having been involved in overseas deployments to help other countries when required.

As recently as last June, CFS staff were deployed to Kiribati in the Central Pacific to create a firefighting service. At this time of year, three CFS incident management team specialists were deployed to British Columbia to help with Canadian wildfires. International deployment requests are becoming more common, and our emergency services crews never let us down, by always being ready and prepared to respond to these calls.

I would like to convey on behalf of the people of South Australia my best wishes to the two CFS officers

who will be deployed to the United States, and the member from the Department for Environment and Water. They are amongst many other candidates from around Australia who are placed in a national pool before being selected. We are proud of their service and commitment, and wish them a safe return to their homes and families.

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