South African firefighters prep for Canada in their biggest international deployment yet

26 May 2016 - 17:06 By TMG Digital

South Africa is sending 301 firefighters and management from the Department of Environmental Affairs' Working on Fire programme to Canada‚ where a massive wildfire in an oil belt saw a town evacuated and companies suffer heavy losses. With the worst of the damage done‚ the fire’s size has been estimated at just more than 520‚000 hectares. South Africa’s team has been asked to help with fire-suppression efforts.The team started to assemble in Johannesburg‚ Gauteng‚ from where they would fly to Alberta‚ Canada‚ on Sunday.Alberta wildfire singes companies beyond energy sector— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) May 25, 2016asyncTheir assistance was requested by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC).“This deployment of wild-land firefighters is the biggest South African deployment ever [outside the army] to assist a foreign country‚” Working on Fire spokesman Linton Rensburg said.“There are a number of priority fires that require human resources, especially the Fort McMurray‚ Alberta‚ fire. CIFFC has sent a formal request for assistance to international partners including Working on Fire."Firefighters from Working on Fire also travelled to Canada in 2015 to help authorities with fire suppression and prevention services.The Canadians have chartered a Canadian Airways plane that would depart with the South African firefighters this weekend‚ he said.Hundreds of SA fire-fighters will help in battling raging wild fires in #Alberta, Canada:— ECR_Newswatch (@ECR_Newswatch) May 26, 2016asyncIn April‚ Working on Fire held a national deployment bootcamp in Gauteng where 400 firefighters received training to ensure that they were physically fit and ready for deployment.“We also wanted to elevate the level of training to meet international standards and, in so doing‚ raise the level of service they offer during deployments. Instructors from the WOF Training Academy conducted fitness drills and representatives from Canada demonstrated how Canadian water-handling equipment works," Rensburg said.“As part of a resource sharing arrangement between Canadian firefighting agencies and ourselves‚ the firefighters will be deployed to Alberta‚ from where they will be dispatched to assist with the suppression of wildland fires in the surrounding forested areas. The wildland fire control effort and the supporting strategies are largely for forest fires in both remote areas and on the forest and rural land interface.”He added: “We are immensely proud of the fact that the international firefighting community has recognised the skills and expertise within Working on Fire to provide essential integrated fire management services at an international level.”

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