The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Barbara Creecy, welcomed back the Working on Fire team who had been deployed to assist with the wildfires Canada. A group of 40 Working on Fire (WOF) firefighters and five senior managers arrived at OR Tambo International on 30 July, after spending nearly 30 days fighting the huge Chuckegg Creek fire in the province of Alberta in Western Canada.
The High Commissioner of Canada in South African, Sandra McCardell, was also part of the welcoming committee: “On behalf of Canada, but also as a proud Albertan, I wish to thank you very much for the hard work that you’ve done over the past weeks in coming to the assistance of Canadians and responding to them in their time of need. We are very grateful, and thanks to your efforts this fire is now contained.”
The deployment followed a request by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC). It was made in terms of an existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the South African government and the Canadian Department of Natural Resources, which allows either country to request urgent support from the other with regard to wildfire management.
The 40 firefighters, including 12 women (30%), came from all nine provinces in South Africa. The team left South Africa on 24 June to join firefighters from Canada, the USA and Mexico in the mammoth operation to combat the raging wildland fires.
Minister Creecy said: “What is most heartening to hear is that because of your efforts, the boundary line remained unbreeched by the fire. You stood with 1,180 firefighters from all over Canada, Mexico and the USA and said ‘this far and no further’. The camaraderie built through your morning Working on Fire parade will stand you in good stead in years to come. Almost all of you have reported benefitting greatly from the exposure to new techniques, approaches, equipment and the novelty of fighting underground fires.”
This was the third successful WOF deployment to Canada, reflecting the importance of heightened cooperation and resource-sharing agreements put in place by the international firefighting community.