More than 100 firefighters from Mexico arrived in Chilliwack Wednesday in the first step en route to the B.C. interior to help battle the wildfires.
The wildfire personnel arrived at the RCMP’s Pacific Regional Training Centre (PRTC), stayed overnight in the hotel, and were set to begin orientation early Thursday.
The deployment is the latest help from outside the province aimed to help battle the hundreds of wildfires in what is turning out to be one of the worse wildfire seasons in B.C. ever.
Since April 1, 491,000 hectares have burned across the province, sending this season over the 483,000 hectares burned in 1961. Only 1958 was even worse – 855,000 hectares burned that year.
The provincial government announced on Tuesday that because of the sustained hot and dry weather, which continues to exacerbate the already busy summer wildfire season, additional firefighting resources from the United States and Mexico were engaged to assist the BC Wildfire Service.
The 108 wildfire personnel from Mexico are scheduled to be deployed to the Interior on Friday. This is the first time Mexican personnel have assisted B.C., although they have been employed many times in Alberta.
This is in addition to 27 firefighters from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan who were brought into B.C. in addition to crews from Ontario that arrived last weekend. These firefighters were imported from Ontario as part of the cross-border Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact.
“Given the severity of B.C. wildfires this year, we greatly appreciate the ability to draw on personnel from beyond our borders,” said Doug Donaldson, Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. “We thank all incoming crews, as well as all our B.C. crews and contractors in their ongoing firefighting efforts.”
The firefighters from Mexico and the U.S. are trained to the standards of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre and will be valuable as they assist with B.C.’s current wildfire situation. The cost of bringing in the international resources will be covered by the Province of B.C.
Hot and dry weather conditions have kept a persistently high fire danger rating throughout B.C. Firefighting crews are on standby in all six of B.C.’s fire centres in preparation for an anticipated increase in fire starts over the next few days due to unsettled weather in the forecast, which may bring lightning.
To report a new wildfire or an open burning violation, call 1 800 663-5555 toll-free or *5555 on a cellphone.