Australian personnel to boost B.C. firefighting resource

B.C. Wildfire Service crew member works at one of the province's 2020 summer blazes. (BC Wildfire Service/Twitter)

As B.C. continues to experience dry conditions and aggressive wildfire activity, international support for the Province's wildfire response has received another welcome boost with the arrival of 34 Australian firefighting personnel.

"Australia and Canada have a long history of helping each other out when wildfire activity is high," said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. "During this extremely challenging fire season, we greatly appreciate the support we're receiving from Canadian provinces, the federal government and our partners abroad."

The Australian contingent will include one nine-person incident management team and various specialized operational leadership roles, such as task force leaders, divisional supervisors and technical specialists. They will arrive in Vancouver at about 5:30 p.m. (Pacific time) on Tuesday, July 27, 2021. After they have been briefed on the current wildfire situation, they will receive their assignments and be deployed on wildfires under the direction of the BC Wildfire Service.

"It's encouraging to see the support we're receiving from Australia as we continue to strengthen our firefighting response," said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. "That country has also experienced extremely difficult fire seasons recently, so they understand our situation and I'm pleased they are providing assistance."

Strict COVID-19 protocols will be in place for the Australian personnel coming to B.C. They will live and work in operational "bubbles" apart from other firefighting personnel to minimize COVID-19 risks. They will also remain in their own bubbles when away from the fire line.

The Australians are joining hundreds of other out-of-province personnel who are working on B.C. wildfires, including 113 from Quebec who arrived on July 23 and 101 Mexicans who arrived on July 24.

Out-of-province firefighting personnel who will be in British Columbia as of Tuesday, July 27, 2021:

* Australia: 34

* Mexico: 101

* Quebec: 134

* Alberta: 61

* Nova Scotia: one

* Parks Canada: 17

* Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC): one

* Canadian Armed Forces: approximately 90 as of July 23 (increasing to 250 by July 28)

As of July 26, there are 3,558 people involved in firefighting operations in B.C., including 1,252 contractors.

Requests for out-of-province assistance are made through the CIFFC, which co-ordinates the sharing of firefighting resources within Canada. Incoming firefighting crews are trained to CIFFC standards and will be deployed where they are needed most in the province.

The cost of bringing in firefighting personnel (e.g., firefighters, wildfire management professionals and support staff) from other provinces or countries is covered by the B.C. government.

British Columbians and visitors are urged to use caution and remain vigilant over the coming weeks as aggressive wildfires continue to burn in many areas of the province. To report a new wildfire or an open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.