A humanitarian handling the heat

Mr Borough in British Columbia, Canada ready to fight the 2017 wild fires The 2017 British Columbia fires The team were helicoptered in and out of the fire fighting zones Mr Borough's 2021 Humanitarian Medal is one of a number of medals he has received for his service
1 December 2021

When Mr Tim Borough relocated to Canberra from Queensland to take on a role at The Australian National University (ANU) in 1998 he left behind a career as a fire-fighter with the Queensland Fire Service.

Instead of hanging up his uniform, he decided to take on a volunteer position with the ACT Emergency Services Agency and has been on call, fighting fires, ever since.

It wasn’t too many years later that Mr Borough was called upon to fight the most intense fire Canberra has ever experienced – the 2003 bushfires in which four people were killed, hundreds were injured and 500 houses were lost.

“To this day, I’ve never experienced anything like it. We were deployed to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve for property protection. At approximately 1pm the fire storm hit us; it was like a tornado lasting about half and hour, with wind gusts of about 150 kilometres an hour.”

“It was a storm, but instead of hail or rain we were pelted with fire embers. Everything was black and red and there were fireballs flying along the ground. It’s the only time I’ve feared for my life while fighting fires.”

During the most recent bushfires - the 2019/2020 ‘Black Summer’ fires - Mr Borough was regularly called-up to the front lines in Queensland, New South Wales and Canberra to areas including Namagi National Park, Braidwood and Neriga.

His firefighting prowess has even taken him to British Columbia, Canada, when in 2017 he volunteered to relieve Canadian fire fighters who had been battling for 8 weeks the biggest fires that Canada has ever experienced.

With a team of 39 other ACT and NSW volunteers, Mr Borough boarded a plan to support the work already underway to bring under control active fires that covered approximately 1.2 million hectares.

“I was definitely apprehensive about what to expect in Canada. There were nerves but at the same time I was very excited to be heading overseas with my colleagues to help out the Canadians.”

“One of the things I enjoy most about the work is the mateship and the ability to give back to a community in need.”

“Our mission was to control fire lines to protect the village of Kuluskas. When we arrived we were deployed to a 500,000-hectare fire near Nazko.”

“Although the work was physically exhausting and the days were extremely long, I got to meet and work with a variety of people from different nations. I learned some new firefighting techniques and one of the most memorable parts was being ferried from location to location by helicopter. It was pretty amazing seeing the burnt out land from a chopper.”

Although he doesn’t fight fires for the accolades, Mr Borough was recently recognised at a ceremony with a Humanitarian Award for his contribution to the Canadian bushfire fighting effort. His recent awards are in addition to a medal he received for his work on the 2003 bushfires, National Medal and 20-year Service Medal.