In this image made from video, officials block the Princes Highway as wildfires approach in South Coast, New South Wales Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Wildfires burning across Australia’s two most-populous states have trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused fatalities. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 9, Channel 7 via AP)

Canada will consider more aid for Australia as bushfires burn across country

Nearly 100 Canadian fire experts have been sent to Australia to help battle fires

Nearly 100 Canadian fire experts have been sent to Australia to help battle one of the worst wildfire seasons the country has ever seen.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canada is willing to do more to help, but a spokesman from his office says all Australia has requested so far is more people.

“I have communicated with my Australian counterpart to reiterate that we are prepared to consider further assistance as necessary,” Champagne said in a written statement. ”When wildfires spread through Canadian communities, Australia answered our call for help. We are proud to do the same.”

Canada has offered money and equipment to aid other countries in the past, including a $15-million offer of cash and temporary use of some water-bombers when the Amazon rain forest was on fire in Brazil and Bolivia last summer. Global Affairs Canada has not yet said whether any of that money flowed or if the water-bombers were deployed.

University of British Columbia biology professor Karen Hodges said it is common for the international firefighting community to share resources and expertise in times of need.

“Whenever there are catastrophic wildfires other countries are willing to help,” she said.

Australian firefighters, alongside Americans, Mexicans, and New Zealanders, came to Canada in 2018 to help British Columbia beat back the worst fire season that province has ever seen.

The Australian national council for fire and emergencies said Wednesday 97 Canadians have deployed to Australia to help this season along with 159 Americans and others from New Zealand. One group of Canadians arrived to cheers and applause as they pushed through the doors into the airport arrivals area in Sydney on Jan. 6.

Angela Bogdan, the Canadian consul general in Australia, greeted the group and told them the Australians are extremely grateful for their help.

“I cannot underscore enough that in making this long journey you’ve brought hope and reassurance to these people,” said Bogdan.

The first group of 21 experts who arrived in early December headed home Wednesday, as another group of eight arrived. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian tweeted a thank-you to them Wednesday, saying “NSW won’t forget what you have done.”

Most of the Canadians are there to help with aviation, logistics and fire behaviour, while Australia relies heavily on local volunteer firefighters to battle the blazes.

Widespread drought and multiple heatwaves are creating perfect conditions for fires, which have scorched millions of hectares of bushland since October. Australian sources seem to differ on how much land has burnt.

Fire agencies in New South Wales and Victoria, the two most populated states in Australia, reported on their websites that there were 3.9 million hectares and 1.2 million hectares of fires, respectively, burning on their territories right now. In New South Wales, 136 fires are being tracked, 36 of them out of control.

Officials in Australia say 25 people have been killed in the fires.

Last year was a bad year for fires in many parts of the world including in Russia, Angola, Indonesia and California. Environment experts say climate change is largely to blame for an increase in fire risk.

Hodges said in Australia, there are often many small, cooler-burning fires that take out dead scrub brush and grasses but don’t destroy the tree canopy. She said the difference this year is that because of drought and heat, the fires are burning hotter and far more trees are succumbing to the flames.

More than half a billion animals are believed to have perished in the fires.

Hodges said it will take Australia “decades” to recover the trees that have been lost.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Q&A: Interior Health CEO answers questions on COVID-19 response

Susan Brown, president and CEO of Interior Health, answers questions regarding COVID-19

Demand doubles at Revelstoke food bank

Community Connections concerned whether they can meet increasing need

UPDATE: 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

COVID-19: Revelstoke 3D printing face shields for local hospital

‘The response has been completely overwhelming’

Revelstoke Search and Rescue notice significant drop in calls

SAR across the province dropped roughly 90 per cent last week

‘We will get through this’: B.C. sees new COVID-19 death, but 57% have recovered

A total of 1,066 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus

Okanagan Skaha School Board does not anticipate closures

School district budget tight as a result of declining enrolment

55+ BC Games cancelled amid COVID-19 concerns

Greater Victoria set to host 2021 event

EDITORIAL: Are you a virus jerk? Take our short quiz to find out

Are you a virus jerk? Take this short quiz to learn the… Continue reading

BC Hydro offers three-month bill ‘holiday’ for those affected by COVID-19

Industrial customers can defer half of their power bills

Lake Country athlete selected to participate in national training program

Volleyball player Chloe Ladd will be heading to the Lower Mainland in the fall

“I call her my adopted daughter”: Salmon Arm couple embrace student exchange experience

Rotary Youth Exchange students choose to shelter in place during COVID-19 pandemic

Some April Fool’s Day jokes bring much-needed laughter; others tone deaf to COVID-19

Police are warning the public not to use the ongoing pandemic as a punchline

Super Beaver Task Force: April Fool’s Day joke lightens weight of COVID-19 uncertainty

Ducks Unlimited Canada enlists beavers’ help to protect wetlands in unconventional way

Most Read