Canadian firefighters are in Australia to bolster Canadians already assisting the country in the battle against devastating wildfires.
Stephen Tulle, duty officer with the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, said a group of 15 set out for Queensland Monday, while another group of 21 flew out later in the week.
He said the contingent of Canadian wildfire specialists stationed in Queensland and New South Wales will reach 87.
This is the first time that Canada has sent firefighters to Australia, although Tulle says crews from Down Under have visited there and were vital in helping British Columbia handle widespread wildfires in 2017 and 2018.
The Canadian contingent is made up of male and female volunteers from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Parks Canada.
The Australian wildfires have killed at least 10 people and destroyed 1,000 homes across the country in the past few months.
The Canadians are primarily performing fire-manager duties, related to command, planning, logistics and aviation management.
Many of the Canadians are already familiar with their Australian counterparts, Tulle said. “It’s like old homecoming week,” he said.
“They’re down there and they say, ‘Hey, we worked together in British Columbia in 2018.’ And so, they do know each other. They do have those contacts and those relationships.”
Canadian firefighters will spend about six weeks in Australia before returning home and Canada will continue to send crews if volunteers can be found, and Australia is requesting help.