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New Zealand firefighters to help combat Canadian wildfires

New Zealand firefighters to help combat Canadian wildfires

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is deploying firefighters and incident management specialists to help contain wildfires raging in Canada.

National Manager Rural Kevin O’Connor said 80 people drawn from Fire and Emergency NZ, the Department of Conservation, and Forestry contractors would fly to Vancouver from Auckland between Saturday and Monday (5 - 7 August), to start what is expected to be a five-week deployment in the province of British Columbia.

New Zealand has a standing agreement with Canada to supply each other with support via the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) International Agreement, and Mr O’Connor said the deployment follows a formal request from the CIFFC earlier this week.

"Canada is close to exhausting all available wildfire management resources within their country. To help provide ongoing relief, New Zealand is sending a team of firefighters and operational personnel to provide frontline and incident management support to local firefighters."

"Our fire crews and incident management team members have a range of skills in high demand during lengthy firefighting operations. These include experience in logistics, communications, ferrying supplies into remote locations, and the use of aircraft," he said.

Total area burnt this season Canada sits at 1,202,645 hectares, and is increasing at about 8000 hectares per day, Mr O’Connor said.

There are currently 226 wildfires burning across Canada. British Columbia is the worst affected with over 474,000 hectares burnt already and 135 fires currently burning.

The province remains in a declared State of Emergency and the extreme fire danger is expected to continue, with no weather relief forecast on the horizon.

Current firefighting efforts in British Columbia remain focused on public safety and keeping highways that serve as evacuation routes open.

New Zealand crews will join over 3000 people and 200 planes that are currently engaged in the response effort in British Columbia, Mr O’Connor said.

This will be New Zealand’s 20th international rural fire deployment, and the fourth and largest contingent to Canada since the first deployment there in 2009, he said.

In total, 661 New Zealand rural firefighters will have been deployed internationally since deployments began in 2000.


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