The brothers will leave for Sioux Lookout, a town in the Canadian state of Ontario, tomorrow where they will be put in four-person crews to fight fires in large areas over the next six months.

Both work for Whangarei-based Forest Protection Services and this is the first time the company has been invited by Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services in Ontario to send rural firefighters over.

Usually Canadian firefighters come to Whangarei during their offseason between November and March.

In the past two years, five Canadians have come to fight rural fires in Whangarei and they have also accompanied Forest Protection Services crews on firefighting duties to the Chatham Islands, as well as to Tasmania and Victoria.

“The size of land over there is a lot more than what we’re used to here which means more travelling time especially by helicopters. We work on dry land here whereas there’s a lot more water on land over there.”

He said they may have to spend long periods travelling to and from fire sites and set up camp in remote areas.

“We’re not quite sure what to expect. The skills we’ll utilise in Ontario are working with water pumps, chainsaw use, and our level of fitness working in forests.

“This will be our first trip to Canada and so we hope to learn as much as we can. It’s going to be six months of non-stop work.”

The siblings are following in the footsteps of dad Mike Sullivan who is the deputy principal rural fire officer for Whangarei and Kaipara and also works for the company.

Mike Sullivan’s wife Robyn is also an employee of Forest Protection Services.

Company owner Kevin Ihaka said the trip under a reciprocal arrangement should be a good learning experience and adventure for the brothers.


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