The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s Working on Fire programme is deploying a team of more than 200 firefighters and management to the Canadian province of Alberta to assist with firefighting and fire suppression efforts.
This will be the fifth deployment by a Working on Fire team to Canada.
“I would like to extend my best wishes to the team as you embark on your deployment to Canada to help put out the fires raging in Alberta.
“You go to Canada to raise the South Africa flag and share your expertise and camaraderie with colleagues from other Canadian provinces to save lives, homes, businesses and large swathes of vegetation,” Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said on Friday.
The request for urgent assistance came from the Canadian Inter-agency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) in terms of the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Canada and South Africa.
Alberta has already experienced more than 550 wildfires this season, resulting in significant damage to property and infrastructure, and displacing thousands of people. Evacuation orders have been put in place in many areas.
The MOU signed in 2019 provides for the exchange of wildland fire management resources between South Africa and Canada. It was put in place following two earlier deployments to Canada to suppress wild fires in Alberta and Manitoba.
“The first deployment of 200 firefighters and 15 managers will depart for Canada on a chartered aircraft from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) on Saturday, 3 June 2023. The deployment will see the team assist firefighters in Canada for 35 days.
“A second team of 200 firefighters and 13 managers will join the crew in Alberta in a week’s time. The 2023 Canadian deployment team comprises pump trained firefighters, who have a valid Yellow Card; more than three years actual firefighting experience and who are physically fit,” the department said.
Twenty-five percent of the selected firefighters in the first deployment are women.
This includes two members of the management team, which highlights Working on Fire’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
A number of the team members have previous international firefighting experience, which further enhances the expertise in tackling complex fire situations.
“We are proud of the fact that South Africa is again able to assist Canadian firefighting teams in their battle to bring the wildfires under control. The extensive experience and training of these firefighters will significantly enhance efforts to effectively suppress and manage the wildfires in Alberta,” said Creecy.