South African Firefighters deployed to Canada to help quell raging inferno
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Durban - THE Department of Environment Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DEFF) deployed 109 firefighters and management officials to the province of Manitoba in Canada, to help with the firefighting efforts yesterday.
According to the department, Canada has been experiencing record-breaking heat waves associated with dry weather. The deployment would be for the next 34 days.
“The Working on Fire team embark on their fourth deployment to Canada to assist in bringing the fires, currently raging across Manitoba, under control. They will fly South Africa’s flag high. Their camaraderie will stand them in good stead. They will battle alongside colleagues from other Canadian provinces and cities, to save lives and homes,” said Minister of DEFF Barbara Creecy.
In the 109 deployed firefighting staff, 100 were firefighters and a nine-person management team. Of the 100, 30 were women, and another 35 firefighters had, in the past, been deployed to Canada.
The firefighters went through a selective process, which had strict criteria that included physical fitness, having a valid yellow card, more than three years actual firefighting experience, and a valid South African passport.
Meeting the criteria also meant that the firefighters passed a drug test and had a clear criminal record.
“Your commitment will serve as an example to members of the ’Working on Fire’ team, who will be on standby to battle any wildfires that may break out here in South Africa, as we near the end of our winter season,” said Creecy
The deployment is under The Working on Fire programme and was administered by the Extended Public Works Programme. It aimed to provide opportunities,personal development and skills training to South African communities.
The programme targeted youth and women in particular, with 85% of crews made up of young people and 30% made up of women.
The Canadian Inter-agency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) made a firefighter request call to SA through the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries. The MOU provides for the exchange of wild land fire management resources between the two countries.
Reportedly, the province of Manitoba is battling with wildfires and has not been coping, nor managing the fires, well. A dry spring has also been noted as a contributing factor to the wildfires and the country has been reported to have almost exhausted their wild land fire management resources.
The newly deployed firefighters and management were trained before their departure during refresher training in Hekpoort, in Gauteng, to prepare for their new task at hand. According to the department, refresher training included map reading, power pump usage, fire line safety, helicopter safety, and extensive pre-deployment training based on the expected Canadian conditions.
“We also understand that we are currently amid our 2021 Winter Fire Season. However, as with previous deployments, we want to reassure our partners and stakeholders that this deployment will in no way have an impact on our current firefighting resources in South Africa, where the ’Working on Fire’ programme is able to call on close to 5 000 firefighters, spread throughout the country,” said Creecy.