Saskatchewan wildfires: Canadian soldiers take crash course in firefighting

Hundreds of soldiers have joined the fight against Saskatchewan forest fires.

More than 100 wildfires burning as members of 3rd Canadian division arrive

More than 100 wildfires burning as members of 3rd Canadian division arrive 1:50

Hundreds of soldiers have joined the fight against Saskatchewan forest fires.

Canadian Forces members with the 3rd Canadian Division streamed into Prince Albert on Monday for a crash course on firefighting.

The troops are set to complete training on Wednesday morning and begin battling blazes in both Montreal Lake and La Ronge. 

The training program normally requires five days to complete, but in this instance the soldiers trained for 8 hours. Military officials, however, are not concerned that condensed training period will compromise safety or the ultimate success of the operation. 

"We haven't skimped on it because risk management is a key component, understanding risks our soldiers are going into, and making sure they've got the necessary tools to deal with those risks," said Brig.-Gen. Wayne Eyre.

Members of the Canadian Forces are on their way to the Saskatchewan fire zone. (Katherine Guest)

"First aide training, the helicopter operations and familiarization, the ability to live in austere environments — everything that comes from our general war fighting training has allowed us to greatly accelerate this training," Eyre explained.

Col. Trevor Cadieu was in command of troops at the Prince Albert armoury on Tuesday.

"One of things that soldiers bring to this operation is we're accustomed to dealing in the higher-threat environments," Cadieu said. "We're used to having to respond quickly to these sorts of things."

Some 500 personnel will be patrolling the fire lines, putting out hot spots and providing logistical support doing such chores are moving fire hoses around. Many of them will travelling in light-armoured vehicles that can manoeuvre off the roads.

They're joining the more than 600 firefighters who've been battling the blazes for weeks.

It's an honour to help people in need this way, Cadieu said. 

Soldiers from the 3rd Canadian Division refuel in North Battleford on their way to Prince Albert. Some 500 personnel from Canadian Forces will be on the fire line fighting forest fires in northern Saskatchewan. (Canadian Forces/Twitter)

"This is not a military-led operation." he said. " We are responding to a request for assistance that came out of the province of Saskatchewan."

113 forest fires are burning in Saskatchewan today, and as many as 13,000 people have been forced to leave their homes. One of the worst-hit areas is around La Ronge, which is about 380 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon.

At least 7,000 evacuees are in shelters in Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Cold Lake, Alta., and other communities.

More army personnel, perhaps as many as 900, could be deployed to fight fires as conditions change, officials say.

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