Alberta has fire help on standby

Alberta has fire help on standby

 25 October 2007

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USA — Alberta’s firefighters are waiting by the phone incase California needs help.

While Canada has not been asked for help in battling wildfires in the GoldenState, if the call comes in they will be ready to head down there.

“Throughout the fire season, because of the nature of these mutual aidagreements, we do have guys essentially on standby really,” said AlbertaSustainable Resource Development wildfire information officer Rob Harris.

“When the situation is slow here in Alberta, in other parts of thecountry here in Canada or in the States, because of these mutual aid agreementswe are always on standby to send these resources to where they are needed.”

As of yesterday, fires in California had burned about 1,650 square kilometresand destroyed about 1,500 homes. At least half a million people have been forcedto flee the flames.

Seeing the devastation leaves firefighters ready to jump should the call come,said Edmonton fire rescue spokesman Nikki Booth.

“Our staff are very compassionate people. They have a desire to help andseeing something like that, being what their training is, they have a desire toassist when needed. I think that’s just a nature of their personalities and whatthey do.”

In the past, city firefighters have helped out in the aftermath of hurricaneKatrina at New Orleans and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New YorkCity.

If there was a call for help, the city would have to assess what resources ithas to send without leaving Edmonton short for staff, said Booth.

So far, a home owned by a celebrity who grew up in Fort McMurray appears tobe safe. Natasha Henstridge’s Malibu home is out of danger, said her publicistMarcel Pariseau.

Through mutual aid agreements between the two countries, a call for help canbe made. A request from California would go through the Canadian InteragencyForest Fire Centre in Winnipeg, which would then ask the provinces whatresources they have to offer.

Harris said Alberta has more than 300 Type 1 firefighters, which are thehighest trained level, and have access to another couple of thousand emergencyforest firefighters that can be called in on a temporary basis.

Because the forest fire situation in Alberta is quiet, Harris speculated thatthe province would have resources to help if necessary.

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