Penticton helicopter pilot back from fighting Australian fires

Local pilot fought Aussie fire

A Penticton-based helicopter pilot will be sharing his experiences fighting the Australian wildfires at a unique event next week. 

Mike Bridson is back in Canada after battling the devastating blazes through his job with the Coulson Group, contracted by the government of Australia's province of Victoria. 

He will be sharing his on-the-ground and in-the-air experiences through photographs and stories at a free event at Slackwater Brewing on Jan. 21, organized by Penticton's Animal Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT).

Deborah McBride with ALERT says the evening will provide fascinating insight into the Australian fires. 

"He is one of the heavy helicopter pilots so it's a unique skill," she said. "We learn so much from him, we learn so much about fires. He worked on the Eagle Bluff fire last year." 

McBride says a lot of the ALERT volunteers recognize that what is happening in Australia could easily happen in the Okanagan, and connect emotionally to the loss of animal life that is taking place. 

Many, she says, are experiencing compassion fatigue. 

"It's the exhaustion of not being able to help more, really," she explained. 

But the information people like Bridson can give the volunteer group is invaluable. McBride says all the ALERT volunteers in the Okanagan recognize how quickly the valley could experience something similar to Australia. 

"We're not out of the woods by any means. We're downloading so much stuff that we need to talk about," she said. 

ALERT will have a table set up on Tuesday at Slackwater for anyone interested in learning more about joining their volunteer team. 

The event begins at 7 p.m. on the upper floor of the brewery.

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