Firefighters arrive in B.C. from Mexico, Quebec and Australia

Premier John Horgan, Katrine Conroy, minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development, and Brittny Anderson, MLA from Nelson-Creston, tour the Southeast Fire Centre in Castlegar July 21, 2021. || B.C. government photo.
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A contingent of 34 Australian firefighters is scheduled to arrive in B.C. later today (July 27) to help battle wildfires in the province’s interior. 

They will join over 3,500 people, including 101 Mexican firefighters and 134 firefighters from Quebec, according to a media release from the province. 

The Australian contingent will include one nine-person incident management team and various specialized operational leadership roles, such as task force leaders, divisional supervisors and technical specialists. After they have been briefed on the current wildfire situation, they will receive their assignments and be deployed under the direction of the BC Wildfire Service.

“It’s encouraging to see the support we’re receiving from Australia as we continue to strengthen our firefighting response,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general. 

“That country has also experienced extremely difficult fire seasons recently, so they understand our situation and I’m pleased they are providing assistance.”

The firefighters from Australia, Quebec and Mexico will live and work in operational “bubbles” apart from B.C. crews to minimize COVID-19 risks, the province said. They will also remain in their own bubbles when away from the fire lines. The COVID-19 protocols in place are similar to those experienced by B.C. firefighters who were deployed to Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario this year.

“We appreciate the firefighting assistance we’re receiving from other Canadian provinces and from Mexico,” said Katrine Conroy, minister of forests, lands, natural resource operations and rural development. “These crews are a welcome addition to our own firefighters and contractors, who are working extremely hard to help keep B.C. communities safe.”

The province said the Mexican firefighters were tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving Mexico and again when they arrived in B.C. They were also offered COVID-19 vaccinations before being deployed. 

The cost of bringing in firefighting personnel (firefighters, wildfire management professionals and support staff) from other provinces or countries is covered by the B.C. government.

Additionally, there are 90 personnel from the Canadian Forces, 61 from Alberta, 17 from Parks Canada, one from Nova Scotia and one member of Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).

Requests for out-of-province assistance are made through the CIFFC, which co-ordinates the sharing of firefighting resources within Canada. Incoming firefighting crews are trained to CIFFC standards and will be deployed where they are needed most in the province.

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