TIMMINS -- Dan Johnson is a fire operations supervisor for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry at the Timmins Fire Management Headquarters.  He left home on December 3 to fly to Australia for a 38-day tour of duty.

He was deployed to Casino, New South Wales to work as a planner in an operations centre within a protected fire zone. 

“Provided some mapping, some fire behaviour, weather information, so we could provide the information to people to do their jobs,” says Johnson. 

He says his 30-year plus career prepared him for the experience and was excited to help during an unprecedented fire season in Australia.  

But, he says there were some challenges. For example, he says the country’s topography is different, it’s hotter and the sap from its eucalyptus trees is flammable and embers from the bark carry for long distances. 

While on the job, Johnson says he learned Australian fire crews use some unique tools and thinks those would be of benefit to have in Ontario.

“There’s a lot of systems and technologies that they utilize that would help us in the future ... infrared scans and a real-time updating system that they have,” he explains.

Johnson says he isn’t sure if he’d travel to Australia again due to the many hours it took to get there.  But he says he feels privileged to have had a glimpse of some of Sydney’s iconic landmarks such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge.

“I’m proud that we had the opportunity to assist and provide some relief to the Australians when we here there,” he says humbly.  “But I was a little sad that it happened to be throughout Christmas.” 

With summer soon turning to autumn in Australia and winter turning to spring in Canada, Johnson is now looking ahead and preparing for the fire season in Ontario which he says begins April 1.