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Canada wildfires “apocalyptic” – “In my experience and that of the pilots here, we’ve never seen anything like this”

Saturday, August 12, 2017 15:49
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Desdemona Despair

Aerial view of a massive wildfire in British Columbia, 9 August 2017. Photo: Stephen Boyce / Radio NZ

By Adriana  Weber
9 August 2017

(Radio NZ) – A New Zealand helicopter pilot fighting enormous wildfires in Canada says everyone works in an ”apocalyptic twilight” amid the worst conditions he has experienced in 25 years.

More than 200 wildfires are burning across the country, with the majority of those ablaze in British Columbia, which has had one of its worst wildfire seasons in 60 years.

A team of 80 firefighters from New Zealand this week joined the close to 3800 personnel already working to contain the fires.

Pilot Stephen Boyce has already spent 10 days helping douse an area of over 90,000 hectares of land, which is the equivalent of the entire Auckland district, and only one of four sections of the Elephant Hill Fire.

He took leave from his role at Oceania Aviation Group in Auckland to travel to Canada to help the helicopter crews, as the company often deals with businesses in Canada.

Soon after he arrived, it become clear the fires were unlike anything he has ever faced before.

Aerial view of the 'apocalyptic twilight' conditions firefighters are working through in British Columbia, 9 August 2017. Photo: Stephen Boyce / Radio NZ

“The visibility and flying conditions are the worst I have experienced on fires in 25 years.

“If we haven’t got really strong winds and high temperatures, we’ve got almost no wind and high temperatures and thick, dense smoke, which can be virtually impossible to fly in.”

He said the smoke cover extended up to 3000 feet above ground and was so thick it blocked out the sun.

“The sun is so obscured that it is the colour of a blood orange all day. You can openly stare at the sun in the middle of the day … everyone’s working in this apocalyptic twilight. … In my experience and that of the pilots here, we’ve never seen anything like this.” [more]

Canada wildfires ‘apocalyptic’ – Kiwi pilot


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