4 April, 2012
When Andrew Gordon made the switch from boilermaker to Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) project fire fighter, he had no idea that three years on, he’d be rappelling out of choppers in Canada.
Andrew, who is based with the DSE rappel crew at Ovens in north east Victoria, is taking part in the annual exchange program between DSE and the British Colombia Fire Service.
“This is a great opportunity for me to gain more experience and it will help me progress to becoming a crew leader,” Andrew said.
“There’s an entirely different system to learn. The Canadian crews use a different rappel technique, it’s different bush, there’s a different way of fire fighting, so I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can.”
The 27-year-old, who joined the DSE in 2009, jokes that when he decided to stop being a boilermaker he looked around to see what other hot, dirty work he could do.
“I had a few mates who were working as project fire fighters so I joined the ground crew and really liked it and then decided to apply for rappel.
“I’ve been given excellent training, it’s a job I love doing and now I’ve been given this great opportunity to go to Canada,” he said.
Andrew is one of 28 rappel fire fighters based in Victoria and had to meet a strict selection criteria to be considered for the exchange to Canada.
He leaves for Canada on the 20th of April and will be based in the small town of Salmon Arm, in British Columbia, for five months.
Rappel teams are an important part of the DSE’s fire suppression program and are trained to access and fight bushfires that are inaccessible to vehicles, bulldozers and ground crews.
DSE rappel fire fighters have participated in an exchange program with the British Columbia Fire Service for almost 20 years.
The exchange program offers crew members from both countries the chance to further develop their skills and experience.