WINNIPEG — Firefighters from across Canada are on their way to Australia to bolster Canadians already assisting the country in the battle against devastating wildfires.
Stephen Tulle, duty officer with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, says a group of 15 set out for Queensland Monday, while another group of 21 will fly out later in the week.
He says the contingent of Canadian wildfire specialists stationed in Queensland and New South Wales will reach 87 by Jan. 4.
This is the first time that Canada has sent firefighters to Australia, although Tulle says crews from Down Under have visited here and were vital in helping British Columbia handle widespread wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
The Canadian contingent is made up of male and female 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.
Tulle says the Canadians will primarily be performing fire-manager duties, related to command, planning, logistics and aviation management.
Many of the Canadians are already familiar with their Australian counterparts, Tulle 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 before returning home and Tulle said Canada will continue to send crews as long as volunteers can be found, and Australia is requesting help.
“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.’ “