The third group of firefighters from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment’s Working on Fire (WOF) Programme, known as Mzanzi3 Hotshots, returned home to South Africa on Wednesday, 23 August 2023. Having been deployed to the Provinces of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, these dedicated firefighters have spent the past 33 days battling wildfires with determination and professionalism. They touched down on home soil to a hero’s welcome at the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport.
The Mzanzi3 team embarked on their overseas mission with a clear objective: to provide assistance in containing and managing the wildfires that had been ravaging parts of Canada. Their presence in the Provinces of Alberta and the Northwest Territories will mark a significant moment for South Africa and the WOF Programme in international firefighting efforts, showcasing the strength of global cooperation in tackling environmental challenges.
Over the course of their 33-day deployment, the Mzanzi3 firefighters demonstrated their exceptional skills, resilience, and adaptability. They worked side by side with local and international firefighting teams, exchanging knowledge, techniques, and strategies to effectively combat the blazes that threatened lives and properties.
The firefighters were lauded for their courage and commitment during a homecoming ceremony at the Kishugu Training Academy. Various speakers, including the Canadian High Commissioner in South Africa, Chris Cooter, highlighted the firefighters’ remarkable efforts in aiding Canadian counterparts and communities during a challenging wildfire season.
“You are renowned for professionalism, dedication, and of course your spirited and enthusiastic singing and dancing. No one does it like South Africa. Canada extends its most sincere gratitude to Working on Fire for exemplifying true heroism there. Canada’s parliament tabled a motion in May, expressing its thanks to South Africa for your support this season,” Cooter said.
With Women’s Month taking centre stage in South Africa, a special moment of recognition and appreciation took place amidst the commendations and accolades showered upon the Mzanzi3 Hotshots team. The women, who played a critical role in the mission, and even in the management structure, were given their well-deserved spotlight and they sang in a unified voice in honour of the month.
A fourth group of firefighters, the Mzanzi4 Hotshots, is set to embark on another fire suppression mission to the Province of British Columbia, Canada on Friday, 25 August 2023. The 200 firefighters and 15 management from WOF will provide critical assistance in the face of Canada’s most severe wildfire season on record.