US and South African Firefighters to Battle Wildfires in Canada

June 2, 2023

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — More than 300 firefighters from the United States and South Africa are heading to Canada in the coming days to help the country battle an unprecedented wildfire season.

Federal officials said Thursday that at least 100 U.S. firefighters will be arriving in Nova Scotia over the weekend to help knock down out-of-control wildfires that have forced about 21,000 people from their homes since Sunday.

Another 200 firefighters arriving from South Africa will likely end up in Alberta, though officials say the wildfire situation in the country is fluid.

In Nova Scotia, two major fires that remain out of control – one in suburban Halifax, the other in the southwestern corner of the province – have already destroyed at least 200 homes and cottages.

Still, fire officials announced Thursday that the fire near Halifax had been 50% contained, and that it had not grown on Wednesday.

The latest contingent of arriving international firefighters will be joining hundreds of their colleagues from countries including the United States, Australia and New Zealand who already were in Canada battling fires.

Officials say the number of fires so far this year is roughly on par with 10- year averages, but the amount of land devoured by those fires – approximately 27, 000 square kilometers (104,000 square miles) and counting – is “unprecedented.”

Officials say firefighters are now dealing with parched conditions, rising temperatures and mounting wind speeds, which will make for a volatile environment for wildfires.

The federal government said Wednesday night it approved the Nova Scotia government’s desperate plea for help, and the Canadian Armed Forces is preparing help with logistics and resources to fight fires and hot spots.

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson says it is a “simple fact” that Canada is seeing the impacts of climate change, which can include more frequent and more extreme wildfires.

Much of the province experienced a very mild winter with very little snowfall, and there hasn’t been any significant rainfall in the past 12 days.

As well, April was the driest month on record at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

There have been no deaths or injuries as a result of the fires.

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