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Australian specialists coming to aid BC wildfire efforts

Australian specialists coming to aid BC wildfire efforts

159 wildfires continue to burn across the province, 17 of which started yesterday.

Winds affecting the Williams Lake area are forecasted to die down and blow south, ultimately pushing the fire back onto itself.

Currently, there has been a decrease in behaviour since Saturday’s recent fire activity and officials are hoping to see some rain in the Cariboo and Southern sections of the province.

The Chilcotin, southern interior and south east areas are still expecting lightening on Wednesday, although it is still to be determined if rain will come as well.

Kevin Skrepnec, Chief Fire Information Officer, is hopeful that these shifts in the wind and possible precipitation will help crews regain the edge they had last week before the storm blew through.

There are currently 3,000 staff working to fight the fires, including 450 personnel from other provinces and 1000 contractors, along with 206 aircrafts.

On Wednesday the province is expecting 50 personnel from Australia to arrive. Skrepnec says the newest arrivals are specially trained and have helped aid wildfire services in the past.

About 50 wildfire personnel, including a combination of officers and technical specialists, are scheduled to arrive in Vancouver on Wednesday, July 19. These personnel will be deployed throughout the province, based on current and anticipated wildfire activity. They could remain in B.C. for up to 38 days.

The Australians’ expertise will help maintain the BC Wildfire Service’s high success rate for containing new fires. They will allow B.C. personnel to take mandatory days off in order to begin another cycle of fire suppression operations, according to a press release.

“British Columbia has fostered a mutually beneficial wildfire management relationship with Australia for over 10 years and has a resource-sharing agreement in place with the State of Victoria. This agreement allows for the exchange of personnel, knowledge, skills, equipment, technology and mutual support in the event of an emergency. The cost of bringing in the Australians will be covered by the Province of B.C,” stated a release from the BC Government.

“Wildland fire personnel from B.C. were deployed to Australia in 2007 and 2009 to help respond to busy fire seasons there, since the height of the Australian fire season typically occurs during B.C.’s winter and spring months. Personnel from Australia also were deployed to B.C. to assist with firefighting efforts in 2009, 2014 and 2015.”

Around 500 RCMP officers also remain on rotational duty, along with local policing agencies and crews from BC Hydro.


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