Toronto

Ontario sending 100 firefighters to help fight Fort McMurray fire

'Our hearts are with the people of Alberta right now,' said Kathleen Wynne

Posted: May 04, 2016
Last Updated: May 04, 2016

Smoke fills the air as a small plane flies overhead in Fort McMurray, Alta. The massive wildfire has grown to 10,000 hectares as of Wednesday. (Kitty Cochrane/Canadian Press)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the province will send 100 firefighters to Alberta this week to help fight the wildfire that has destroyed hundreds of homes in Fort McMurray.

"We are committed to helping out other provinces in times of need and this is obviously one of those times," Wynne said in the Ontario legislature on Wednesday.

The firefighters, along with 19 support staff, will be deployed on Friday.

"We thank them for their service, we want them to come home safely, but our hearts are with the people of Alberta right now."

Ontario Natural Resources Minister Bill Mauro said in a statement that the ministry was asked to dispatch firefighters to the northern Alberta city being ravaged by the fire. Fort McMurray is 435 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.

"My ministry stands at the ready to provide additional resources as requested, including additional firefighters and aircraft," Mauro said.

Mauro said the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre is co-ordinating the response from Ontario.

In an email to CBC News Wednesday afternoon, the Ministry of Natural Resources said the firefighters will be deployed out of northern Ontario and will be sent to Edmonton on Friday.

"The current plan is for the firefighters to be deployed to Fort McMurray. Assignments for supervisory staff are yet to be determined," the email said.  

What the firefighters will do "depends on what Alberta will need when they arrive," the ministry said. "They will be either assigned to support suppression efforts on an ongoing fire or placed on initial attack ready to respond to any new fires. Some of the staff we are sending we be leading, directing, planning and supervising our firefighting efforts."

The email said Ontario is prepared to send additional firefighting assistance to Alberta "when we receive requests."

Toronto Mayor John Tory said Wednesday that he has reached out to his counterpart in Fort McMurray "to express our solidarity with them but also to say if there's any way in which we can be helpful to them, if we can lend our support in terms of some of our very excellent emergency or other professional resources, that they need only let me know."

The city doesn't have a reserve fund from which to draw money to send to help with firefighting or evacuation efforts, he said. But the city's fire and other emergency responders and experts in emergency management are ready to help.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley said roughly 1,600 structures have been destroyed by the fire, including a "significant" number of homes.

The fire, now estimated to be about 10,000 hectares in size, has forced thousands of people to flee Fort McMurray.