Working on Fire firefighters deploy to Canada
On Monday, 30 May, 301 of Working on Fire’s firefighters and management arrived in Canada to assist in fighting wildfires across the province of Alberta.
“I just wanted to come down here and shake hands, as we are so grateful. We just want to let them know that Canada loves them and we’re very grateful they are here,” said Ryan Byers, a grateful Canadian resident who welcomed the Working on Fire firefighters as they arrived at Edmonton International Airport on the biggest South African international deployment to date, outside of the army.
Social media immediately took an interest in the team’s arrival and had ever since been buzzing with videos and photos of them singing in the airport arrivals lounge, ready to assist their long standing friends.
When some of the locals asked the firefighters why they were singing, they answered that singing gives them moral courage. Whenever they become tired from battling wildfires, the teams simply start singing to lift their spirits. “It’s not something you practice; it’s in your soul,” said Khomt Alucie, one of the firefighters who made the journey.
The first Working on Fire teams were deployed to Canada in July 2015. The firefighters’ proven skills, dedication and endurance resulted in a second appeal from Canada to assist them with the suppression of the raging wildfire near Fort McMurray.
“These young men and women, from all across South Africa, are well trained and competent for the task at hand. They are proud to be there, not just representing Working on Fire, but also their country,” said Linton Rensburg, National Spokesperson for Working on Fire.
After the 16,000 kilometre journey, the firefighters enjoyed a day off before being deployed to Fort McMurray. The wildfire that destroyed part of Fort McMurray continues to burn out of control and covers almost 580,000 hectares. In some areas, the fire is actively burning as close as 25 kilometers from the outskirts of the city.
Around 2,300 firefighters are currently battling wildfires in Alberta. Firefighters have been flown in from across Canada, the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, Australia and now – South Africa.