North

Yukon firefighters return home from battling U.S. blazes

More than a dozen Yukon firefighters returned to Whitehorse Friday after some were working 12-hour shifts on the fire lines for 45 out of the 50 days that they were assisting south of the border.

Crews spent nearly 2 months away from home in Idaho and Washington State

Yukon firefighters file into the Whitehorse airport Friday after nearly two months of battling wildfires in the northwest U.S. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

More than a dozen Yukon firefighters returned to Whitehorse Friday after being deployed to the U.S. states of Idaho and Washington.

Some were working 12-hour shifts on the fire lines for 45 of the 50 days that they were assisting south of the border. 

Most of the firefighters were in Idaho, which is experiencing one of its worst fire seasons on record.  At one point, there were more than 1,000 firefighters from as far away as New Zealand battling the flames.  

Sadie Jabbar with Yukon Wildland Fire management says the territory's crews were welcomed by Idaho residents. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)
"There was high demand for our Yukon crew, simply because they are a Type 1 initial attack crew and they are multi-talented," said Sadie Jabbar, an agency representative with Yukon Wildland Fire Management.

"When you go down south, crews have specific tasks. Our crew, you can basically task them in anything and they are trained and certified for it."

Jabbar said crews from Yukon were scattered all over the northern regions of Idaho.

He said crews worked in extremely steep terrain with temperatures approaching 40 C and relative humidity in the single digits. By the final few days, Jabbar said the Yukon crews were worn out and ready to come home.

Division supervisor Jim Kathrein, who has been fighting forest fires since 1978, said Idaho residents were welcoming and grateful for the help.

"There were a lot of things there that made it enjoyable," he said. "I think one of the biggest things was the treatment from the American public and the American people to us Canadians."

More Yukon staff are expected to return this week.   

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