Australian resilience 'inspiring,' says P.E.I. man fighting bushfires

Brad Romaniuk has fought wildfires in Canada, but he's never seen anything like the bushfires in Australia.

Romaniuk, a conservation resource officer with Parks Canada in P.E.I., is in New South Wales, co-ordinating a small part of the effort to fight one of the enormous bushfires burning in Australia.

"It's hard to get our heads wrapped around the scale of this," said Romaniuk, who travelled to Australia with a team of 15 Canadians and 25 Americans.

"In Canada I've been to a few fires that we've lost structures and farms and small parts of small communities. That's tragic in its own right. The scale and magnitude of this is quite different."

More than 103,000 square kilometres have burned, tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes, and at least 27 have died.

Good spirits

Romaniuk has been in Australia since early January, working 12-hour days, co-ordinating firefighting teams and heavy equipment, and developing strategies to keep the blaze down. Despite the 24-7 efforts, the fire he is working on is still considered out of control.

In the face of the devastation of their community and the landscape, Romaniuk said the Australians he is working with remain in remarkably good spirits.

Jason Edwards/AAP/Reuters

"I get teased quite a bit about my accent, but that just adds some humour to the room," he said.

"The community resilience and the volunteerism and how strong they are is really, from a humanitarian perspective, very heartwarming and inspiring."

Romaniuk plans to return to Canada around the end of January.

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