South Africa deploys more firefighters as Canada experiences worst wildfire season in history


Working on Fire

Working on Fire

“Canada is experiencing its worst wildfire season in their history with evacuations happening in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories this past weekend,” said Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy.

A fourth group of 215 South African firefighters from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environments’ Working on Fire Programme is set to fly out to the Province of British Columbia, Canada, this coming Friday, 25 August 2023.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) requested a fourth team of WOF firefighters (200 firefighters and 15 management team) to be deployed to the Province of British Columbia.

These firefighters will start to assemble at the Kishugu Training Academy this week as they start their preparations to be deployed to Canada, whilst at the same time, the third group of Working on Fire firefighters (215) who have been deployed to the Provinces of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, will return home to South Africa on Wednesday, 23 August 2023, 12H30 landing at Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport, after a successful 33 day deployment.

The deployment of the Mzanzi4 firefighters will bring in total 860 firefighters and management who would have been deployed to Canada during their worst fires season in history, with more than 5,800 fires recorded so far this year, destroying more than 14 Million Hectares. More than 137,000 square kilometres has been burned from one end of Canada to the other, according to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.

Minister Creecy extends her best wishes to the team (Mzanzi4 firefighters) as they embark on their deployment to Canada. “The deployment of our South Africa firefighters to Canada since June this year has been a resounding success thus far, and they have received huge praise from Canadian wildfire authorities as well as the other international firefighters from countries such as the USA, Mexico, Spain, Chile, Australia.”

“Our firefighters were lauded for their energy, their strong work ethic and safety measures on the fireline, as well as for the way they have accustomed themselves to the conditions in Canada, where wildland firefighting conditions are different from what they are used to in South Africa,” said Minister Creecy.

For media enquiries, contact: Peter Mbelengwa on 082 611 8197



Editor’s note

 Worst Wildfire Season in Canada: Canada is experiencing its worst wildfire season in history, with numerous fires burning across various provinces, notably British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. The spread of these fires has led to evacuations and disruptions, emphasizing the severity of the situation.

South African Firefighters’ Deployment: A fourth group of South African wildland firefighters (215) is being dispatched to Canada to assist in firefighting efforts. These firefighters are part of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s Working on Fire Programme.

Request for Assistance: The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) requested additional assistance in the form of 200 firefighters and a 15-member management team from South Africa to help combat the wildfires in British Columbia.

Challenging Wildfire Statistics: Canada has witnessed over 5,800 fires and more than 14 million hectares of land destroyed due to wildfires during this season, underlining the scale of the disaster. The extent of these fires has prompted a state of emergency declaration in British Columbia.

Climate Change’s Role: Climate change is believed to be a significant contributor to the severity of these wildfires. The increase in global temperatures and associated factors like prolonged droughts and dryer conditions create favorable conditions for the ignition and spread of wildfires.

Positive Performance of South African Firefighters: The South African firefighters who were deployed to Canada have been praised for their strong work ethic, safety practices, and ability to adapt to the unique firefighting conditions in Canada. Their contribution has been valuable in managing the wildfires.

International Collaboration: Firefighting efforts have required collaboration from various countries, including the USA, Mexico, Spain, Chile, and Australia. This international support highlights the global nature of the wildfire problem and the need for collective action.

Growing Wildfire Threat: Reports and studies, including the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) study and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, indicate that the threat of extreme wildfires is expected to rise due to climate change. Rising temperatures, along with factors like El Niño, exacerbate the conditions that lead to wildfires.

Impact of El Niño: The occurrence of El Niño, a weather phenomenon characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures, is exacerbating the conditions for wildfires by leading to warmer and drier land conditions, increasing the risk of fire outbreaks.

Continued Challenges: With global temperatures continuing to rise and climate patterns becoming more erratic, the threat of wildfires will likely persist and intensify. The need for proactive measures to reduce wildfire risk and address climate change becomes increasingly urgent.This situation underscores the importance of international cooperation, climate action, and preparedness to mitigate the devastating impacts of climate change-driven wildfires.


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