In response to a request from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment’s Working on Fire Programme deployed a third team of firefighters and managers to Canada. The devastating wildfires, which have been raging since late May, have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes. The additional team of 200 firefighters and 15 managers will be joining their compatriots, who have already been recognised for their skills, commitment and dedication.
The third team of firefighters – the Mzanzi3 Hotshots – departed in high spirits and in anticipation to aid Canadian wildfire authorities and the community at large in firefighting operations. They left the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (KMIA) on Tuesday, 18 July 2023, on a chartered airplane at 15h00 South African time.
The Mzanzi3 Hotshots deployment will bring the total number of the Working on Fire Programme firefighters and managers deployed to Canada since the first team’s departure on 3 June 2023, to 600 and 43, respectively. Their arrival will bolster the ongoing international joint firefighting efforts, reinforcing that international collaboration is key to combating these unprecedented wildfires.
The first two teams of South African firefighters, known as Mzanzi1 Hotshots and Mzanzi2 Hotshots, were previously deployed to Alberta and garnered high praise from Canadian wildfire authorities. They completed their 35-day fire mission with zero injuries, showcasing their specialised skills, safety standards, and determination to save lives and protect the environment. The High Commissioner of Canada in South Africa, Christopher Cooter, lauded their courage and resilience, emphasising the vital role they played in combating these wildfires.
The Working on Fire Programme’s impact extends beyond South Africa’s borders, as evidenced by these deployments – demonstrating the global recognition of WOF’s skills and the willingness to collaborate on an international scale. One of South Africa’s most successful Expanded Public Works Programmes, WOF provides employment opportunities, training, and empowerment to young men and women from disadvantaged communities, who are now representing the country in international humanitarian aid.
The Mzanzi2 Hotshots are scheduled to touch down at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport on Thursday, 20 July 20, 2023, at 12h55 South African time. Like their predecessors, the Mzanzi 1 Hotshots, they have demonstrated WOF’s much sought-after skills and dedication throughout their deployment.