A team of 200 firefighters and 15 managers from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment’s Working on Fire Programme left South Africa today on a fire suppression mission to the province of Alberta, Canada. #MZANZI1 departed from the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) on a chartered aircraft, on a deployment expected to last for 35 days.

Alberta has already experienced more than 550 wildfires this season resulting in significant damage to property and infrastructure and displacing thousands of people. Evacuation orders have been put in place in many areas.

The South African team underwent intensive three-day refresher training at the Kishugu Training Academy in Mbombela, Mpumalanga before heading off to Canada.

This marks the fifth deployment of a Working on Fire team to Canada, a testament to the strong partnership established between the two nations. The request for urgent assistance came from the Canadian Inter-agency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) in terms of the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Canada and South Africa. The MOU signed in 2019, provides for the exchange of wildland fire management resources. It was put in place following two earlier deployments to Canada to suppress wildfires in Alberta and Manitoba.

In 2021, the Manitoba government thanked the Working On Fire firefighters for their assistance in fighting extreme wildfires in the province.

The firefighters were praised for their “professionalism and dedication to their jobs, as well as great team spirit shown through their colourful marching, chanting and singing at Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg upon their arrival, and when moving through the communities where they were deployed.”

A second team, #MZANZI2, comprising 200 firefighters and 13 managers, will join #Mzansi1 in about a week’s time, further strengthening the firefighting operations in Alberta.

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