Edmonton

Seven more Alberta firefighters sent to fight Australia's fires

Seven more firefighters from Alberta Wildfire left today to help battle the intense fires in Australia. By Monday, 34 Alberta firefighters will have been deployed to help since Dec. 3. 

‘I think the call for help is something that resonates with a lot of Alberta firefighters’

Specialists in air attack, fire behaviour and operations are among the Albertans who will join the teams already on the ground in Australia. (Manuel Carrillos Avalos/CBC)

Seven more firefighters from Alberta Wildfire left on Saturday to help battle the intense fires in Australia. 

By Monday, 34 Alberta firefighters will have been deployed since Dec. 3.

"I definitely feel proud to represent Alberta and Canada," said Rob Anderson, a wildfire air attack officer with Alberta Wildfire. "All I can do is rely on my past training and experience and be confident that I can do the job." 

Anderson, who is headed to New South Wales for 38 days, is no stranger to large blazes. He worked on the Fort McMurray fire in 2016 and the Slave Lake fire in 2011, coordinating airspace and water bombing the flames. 

"I know they're going through a tough time so I'm just going to do my best to have some empathy," said Anderson. 

As of Saturday, 23 people have died and more than five million hectares have burned due to the widespread fires.

Anderson anticipates it could be difficult to acclimatize to the extreme heat but said he's grateful that he'll be able to learn the systems Australian firefighters use regularly. 

"It's a monumental event in Australia's history so obviously a guy is going to naturally have the jitters," he said. 

Rob Anderson is one of seven firefighters who departed on Saturday to help fight fires in Australia. (Manuel Carrillos Avalos/CBC)

Christie Tucker, information lead for Alberta Wildfire, said all of the firefighters are being briefed on safety procedures to ensure they stay hydrated, cool and are able to work efficiently without suffering the consequences of the heat. 

They'll also be briefed on what to expect in terms of terrain, weather and the kind of fires they are fighting. 

Tucker explained that they are working alongside the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) to determine what kind of skills are needed. 

Specialists in air attack, fire behaviour and operations are among those who will join the teams already on the ground. 

"We're hoping they'll be able to fit in seamlessly with the Australian teams and bring their area of expertise to help the team as a whole," said Tucker. 

And there's been no shortage of Alberta firefighters who are keen to pitch in. 

"I think the call for help is something that resonates with a lot of Alberta firefighters," said Tucker. 

"Albertans everywhere understand the threat of wildfire — to be evacuated and worried about your home."

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