VICTORIA – A contingent of 100 Mexican firefighters and an additional 20 Quebec firefighters are coming to British Columbia to assist the BC Wildfire Service as the province continues to be impacted by hot weather, dry conditions and aggressive wildfire behaviour.
“We’re deploying all available resources to respond to hundreds of wildfires across the province, and will continue to do everything possible to protect communities,” said Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We are grateful for firefighters from Mexico and Quebec who will help strengthen our wildfire response and protect British Columbians.”
The 20-person unit crew from Quebec will arrive on Friday, July 16, 2021, accompanied by one agency representative.
The 100 firefighters from Mexico are expected to arrive in Abbotsford on Saturday, July 24, 2021, accompanied by one COVID-19 safety officer and two agency representatives.
“We appreciate the firefighting assistance we’re receiving from other Canadian provinces and from Mexico,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “These crews are a welcome addition to our own firefighters and contractors, who are working extremely hard to help keep B.C. communities safe.”
The new arrivals will be deployed to work on wildfires in the Interior under the direction of the BC Wildfire Service, with strict COVID-19 protocols in place. The Mexican firefighters will be tested for COVID-19 prior to leaving Mexico and again on their arrival in British Columbia. They will also be offered COVID-19 vaccinations before being deployed in B.C.
The Quebec and Mexico crews will live and work in operational “bubbles” apart from B.C. crews to minimize COVID-19 risks. They will also remain in their own bubbles when away from the fire lines. The COVID-19 protocols in place are similar to those experienced by B.C. firefighters who were deployed to Quebec, Manitoba and Ontario this year.
Requests for out-of-province assistance are made through the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC), which co-ordinates the sharing of firefighting resources within Canada. Incoming firefighting crews are trained to CIFFC standards and will be deployed where they are needed most in the province.
The cost of bringing in firefighting personnel (e.g., firefighters, wildfire management professionals and support staff) from other provinces or countries is covered by the B.C. government.
British Columbians are urged to be especially careful and vigilant over the coming weeks as aggressive wildfires continue to burn in many areas of the province, due in part to hot and dry conditions caused by record-breaking temperatures earlier this fire season. The BC Wildfire Service also reminds people that campfires and all open burning are prohibited throughout B.C.
To report a new wildfire or an open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.
* A unit crew is a 20-person sustained action crew that typically works on large fires and can remain self-sufficient in the field for up to 72 hours at a time. Crew members receive extensive training and are knowledgeable about wildfire behaviour, fire management tactics and fireline equipment use.