B.C. crew missing holidays at home to help battle Australian wildfires
Firefighters work to contain a bushfire along Old Bar road in Old Bar, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Darren Pateman/AAP Image via AP)
VANCOUVER -- A group of B.C. firefighters is flying overseas Tuesday to help Australian crews grapple with what's become an extreme and deadly wildfire season – and they won't be home until after the holidays.
Wildfires in Australia have claimed six lives and destroyed more than 600 homes since October, prompting the government to reach out to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre for help.
Canada is responding by sending over a contingent of 22 wildfire personnel from various provinces this week, including seven highly trained firefighting professionals from British Columbia.
They aren't expected to return until Jan. 10, and B.C. Forests Minister Doug Donaldson offered them a personal thank-you Tuesday for stepping up during Australia's time of need.
"Their willingness to be deployed out of the country during the holiday season is a testament to their dedication and professionalism," Donaldson said in a statement.
There are already about 1,100 Australian firefighters battling the country's destructive wildfires, which have torn through large areas of New South Wales and Queensland.
B.C. is sending a planning section chief, two operations section chiefs, two airtanker group supervisors, an air operations branch manager and a heavy equipment branch director to help with the effort.
Australia stepped up when B.C. was dealing with the province's historic 2017 and 2018 wildfire seasons, and hasn't asked for any support since 2009.
"We greatly appreciate their assistance during those difficult years, and we welcome the opportunity to help out our Australian friends now," Donaldson said.