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Laura Tierno Patiño and Alberto López Hurtado, Spain

Wildfires 2023: reflections from the UCPM deployment to Canada

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Canada continues to battle devastating wildfires this summer. Laura Tierno Patiño and Alberto López Hurtado from Castilla-La Mancha Wildfire Service were two of the firefighters deployed when Canada activated the UCPM for assistance.

Laura and Alberto shared their experience of the deployment as part of the international team from Europe and what they gained from it professionally and personally.

By Knowledge Network – Staff member

Canada is facing a record year of burnt area and wildfires. Quebec, Alberta, Nova Scotia and British Columbia are the provinces most affected. On just one day, 4 July, the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) reported 623 active fires across the country, of which 324 were out of control.

On 8 June, the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) was activated following a request for assistance from the Mission of Canada to the EU. Ground Forest Fire Fighting (GFFF) Teams from France, Spain and Portugal answered the call and were deployed to Quebec during June.

Two of these forest fire fighters were Laura Tierno Patiño and Alberto López Hurtado, helitack crew members from Castilla-La Mancha Wildfire Service. Helitack crews are transported by helicopter to the site of a wildfire, for fast assessment and response.

Laura and Alberto shared their experience of this deployment, and what they gained from it professionally and personally.

You are both just back from what was your first international deployment with the UCPM, to support Canada with the wildfires there. Was it what you expected, did anything surprise you?

On a deployment like this, we imagine that there’s an impact in how you work within the team

Laura: Yes, there were differences in the fuel for the fires, the fires themselves, all of that needed us to work in a quite different way how we are used to in Spain. We adapted how we work as a unit, changing how we normally work in Spain to respond to the different conditions there.

Alberto: As Laura says, when you have different fuel, different weather, that changes everything. It changes the tools you work with, the way you move, the logistics, the operations, the planning, all that changes and that takes you out of your comfort area. You have to quickly adapt and get used to another way of working. 

In this case we had to divide our unit and quickly get accustomed to how the teams were already working there. We quickly reached the required rhythm and learned this way of working, were able to put it into practice and one hundred percent achieved what we needed to do. 

About the author

The Knowledge Network – Staff member

The Knowledge Network editorial team is here to share the news and stories of the Knowledge Network community. We'd love to hear your news, events and personal stories about your life in civil protection and disaster risk management. If you've got a story to share, please contact us.

Thematic series

European forest fire season