CANADA/AUSTRALIA – More firefighters from across Canada are on their way to Australia to help Canadians who are already Down Under, battling devastating wildfires that have killed 10 people and destroyed 1,000 homes the past few months.
Stephen Tulle, duty officer with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, said a group of 15 set out for Queensland Monday, while another 21 will fly out later in the week.
The contingent of Canadian wildfire specialists stationed in Queensland and New South Wales will reach 87 by Jan. 4, he said.
This is the first time Canada has made a co-ordinated effort to send firefighters to Australia, although crews from Down Under have visited here and were vital in helping British Columbia handle widespread wildfires in 2017 and 2018, Tulle said.
The Canadian contingent is made up of volunteers from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Parks Canada.
The Australian wildfires have killed 10 people and destroyed 1,000 homes across the country in the past few months.
The Canadians primarily will hold fire manager roles, related to command, planning, logistics and aviation management, Tulle said.
Many of the Canadians already are familiar with their Australian counterparts, he said.
“It’s like old homecoming week,” he said.
“They’re down there and they say, ‘Hey, we worked together in British Columbia in 2018,’ and so they do know each other. They do have those contacts and those relationships.”
Canadian firefighters will spend about six weeks in Australia.
Canada will continue to send crews as long as volunteers can be found and Australia continues to ask for help, Tulle said.
“Our people, kudos to them, have been standing up saying, ‘Yeah, you know what, they’ve been here for us and we’d like to be here for them.’ ”