SA firefighters off to Alberta
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Durban - Wildfires sweeping across Canada have seen South Africa deploy its biggest firefighting rescue team, including 25 firefighters from KwaZulu-Natal.
More than 300 flew to Alberta, in the west, on Sunday morning to assist the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre with wildland suppression efforts.
Fires in Alberta, including a recent one in Fort McMurray, north east of Alberta, have burnt 500 000 hectares, causing serious economic damage.
In a report from the Conference Board of Canada this month, it revealed that the lost oil production will average about 1.2 million barrels a day for 14 days, translating to roughly $985 million in lost real gross domestic product - or 0.33 percent out of Alberta’s GDP and 0.06 percent out of Canada‘s GDP. Rebuilding efforts will roughly cost $1.3 billion in real GDP to Alberta’s economy in 2017.
The report also showed the extent of the tragedy on people’s lives.
Happy to lend a hand is the only female firefighter from KwaZulu-Natal, Thilile Ndaba from Winterton.
The 27-year-old said she was excited to represent South Africa. She was in Indonesia last year as part of a deployment programme.
“To make a difference is a great blessing. I think the one trait this job has taught me is discipline. I am also excited to learn from my fellow Canadian firefighters.
“At first my family was worried but are now very supportive. They know that my job requires me to be in the firing line and that it also saves lives and the environment,” said Ndaba, who has been in the profession for two years.
On his first international trip is Bongile Makae, 25, from Harding who said, “It is a great opportunity to represent South Africa. During my two-month stay, I am going to give it my best shot and work hard to help Canada. I am so excited to be a part of history.”
Working on Fire national spokesman Linton Rensburg said the deployment was part of a resource-sharing arrangement between Canadian firefighting agencies and South Africa. He said the firefighters were deployed via Canadian Airways, where they would assist with the containment of wildland fires in the surrounding forested areas.
“We are proud of our South African firefighters from our Working on Fire programme and believe they will do us proud.
“This pending international deployment comes after fire fighters from Working on Fire assisted Canada with fire suppression and prevention services last year.
“More than 400 received training at a national deployment boot camp in Gauteng in April to ensure that they were physically fit and ready for deployment.
“This helped them become ready to meet international standards and raise the level of service they offer during deployments,” said Rensburg.
He said the organisation was proud that the international fire fighting community recognised the skills and expertise within Working on Fire to provide essential integrated fire management services at an international level.