Working on Fire Canadian Deployment
Biggest Working on Fire international deployment in history
Firefighters from Working on Fire departed from OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday, 29 May 2016 to Alberta, Canada, to assist the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) with their wildland fire suppression efforts.
Canada is currently experiencing challenging fires in particular in the Province of Alberta. There are a number of priority fires that require human resources especially the Fort McMurray, Alberta fire with an estimated size of 505,000 hectares already burnt.
CIFFC have sent a formal request for assistance to their international partners including Working on Fire. This international deployment comes at the back of firefighters from Working on Fire who have already been to Canada in 2015 where they assisted the authorities over there with fire suppression and prevention services.
This deployment of wildland firefighters is the biggest South African deployment of firefighters to assist a foreign country.
We are immensely proud of the fact that the international fire fighting community has recognised the skills and expertise within Working on Fire to provide essential integrated fire management services at an international level.
In April, Working on Fire held a National Deployment Bootcamp in Gauteng where 400 firefighters received training to ensure that they were physically fit and ready for deployment. We also wanted to elevate the level of training to meet international standards, and in so doing, to raise the level of service they offer during deployments. During this boot camp, topics such as managing finances, intercultural relationships, Incident Command, resilience as well as social skills were addressed.
Instructors from the WOF Training Academy conducted fitness drills and representatives from Canada demonstrated how Canadian water handling equipment works.
Firefighters jetted off at OR Tambo International Airport
There was an air of excitement and anticipation as our firefighters arrived at OR Tambo International Airport.
The South Africans left OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg on Sunday, 29 May 2016, at 07:00 and flew to Bridgetown in Barbados for a fuel stop over and crew change. From there they left for Edmonton, Canada where they landed safely in Edmonton, Alberta.
Working on Fire Managing Director, Llewellyn Pillay and the Incident Management Team (IMT) under the leadership of Tim Sidey was at the Airport to bid farewell to our firefighters.
“This was a massive operation to plan from a logistical point of view and I want to thank the entire IMT and their support staff for having made this possible. It gave me a great sense of pride when I saw how excited our fire fighters were at the airport. I have no doubt that they will represent us with pride”, Llewellyn said.
Emotional send off for firefighters
Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs, Barbara Thomson and the Canadian High Commissioner in South Africa, Sandra McCardell, paid tribute to the 301 firefighters and management at a special ceremony which was held at the Stoney Ridge Camping Site in Hekpoort in Gauteng.
Deputy Minister Thomson said at the event that Canada played a key role in supporting our liberation struggle and the support continued in post-apartheid South Africa.
“We needed to respond to the request for help to support Canada who’s facing a major environmental challenge. I thank these brave patriotic fire fighters for representing our country with pride and dignity”, Deputy Minister Thomson said.
The Canadian High Commissioner, Sandra McCardell, extended best wishes to our firefighters and thanked them on behalf of the people and government of Canada.
“I want you to be reassured that the people in my country are grateful for your help and support and they are looking forward to receive you”, McCardell said.
Firefighters arrive safely in Edmonton, Canada
Air Canada flight AC7007 arrived safely in Edmonton, Canada with South African firefighters and management on board.
The Air Canada Boeing 777-200LR arrived at 05:30 on 30 May, carrying the largest deployment ever of firefighters from South Africa’s Working on Fire Programme who will assist in fire fighting efforts underway in Northern Alberta.
We are grateful also for this partnership between CIFFC and for the contribution of Air Canada in flying our fire fighters safely to Canada.
Air Canada had a Boeing 777 which was specially chartered by the CIFFC to fly our firefighters to Canada. The flight crew of Air Canada AC7007 had huge praise for the South African firefighters whom they described as being the politest and humblest passengers whom they have flown with.
This deployment of young men and women firefighters from the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Working on Fire programme came after the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) requested assistance from South Africa a week ago for help with their wildland fire suppression efforts.