Toronto

Ontario sending crews to help battle B.C. fires

As fires continue to rage in the interior of British Columbia forcing more than 14,000 people out of their homes, 105 Ontario firefighters are being flown out on Tuesday morning to help relieve exhausted crews.

105 fire rangers leave from Sudbury on Tuesday morning to join B.C. firefighters

Fire rangers deployed to B.C. can expect to work 14 days straight. (Shayne McCool/Ontario Fire Management)

As fires continue to rage in the interior of British Columbia, forcing more than 14,000 people out of their homes, 105 Ontario FireRangers are being flown out on Tuesday morning to help relieve exhausted crews.

As of Monday evening, more than 215 active fires were burning in the province, authorities say. They started on Friday afternoon after hot, dry weather and strong winds, coupled with lightning, sparked wildfires and prompted a provincial state of emergency.

The Ontario crews will join about 200 other firefighters and support staff from New Brunswick, Alberta and Saskatchewan in helping approximately 1,000 firefighters currently working in B.C.

An Ontario fire ranger crew steps off the plane after two weeks of fighting fires in Fort McMurray, Alta. in 2016 (Shayne McCool/Ontario Fire Management)

Shayne McCool, a fire information officer for the Northeast Region of Ontario, told CBC Toronto the main focus of the expedition is to help relieve the emergency responders who have been working tirelessly since Friday, and to help the people displaced by the fires.

McCool, who has been working with the Ontario fire management offices for 12 years — eight of those as a frontline firefighter — says there can be a big difference for crews used to working on flatter terrain, like Ontario, who then experience the mountainous landscape of B.C. for the first time.

Shayne McCool was a frontline firefighter for eight years. (Shayne McCool/Ontario Fire Management)

"You may be going to a more challenging fire, with hills or mountains you're not used to — they suck the energy out of you," said McCool,

He added that crews fighting wildfires in Ontario can often have better access to water, which can be a challenge in the areas of B.C. where some of the fires are raging.

There's people that have been displaced, that's something that you hold close to your heart.- Shayne McCool, information officer, Ontario Fire Management

The crews chosen to go have had to pass two vigorous fitness tests, something only a select group has achieved.

McCool remembers that being chosen can be exciting, but the main focus is to make a difference.

"There's people that have been displaced, that's something that you hold close to your heart."

What do fire rangers pack?

Crews need to pack for 19 days away.

"That's 19 pairs of socks, 19 pairs of underwear. You've got to be self-sustainable for that many days," said McCool.

The firefighters won't take any time off for 14 days. The extra five days tacked onto the end of that time is for travel.

 McCool says the crews flying out on Tuesday are most likely quite anxious. He recalls on his first deployment having to rely on the leaders of the group, those who had been out before.

"I leaned on my teammates to help me to get through a situation that was foreign to me," said McCool.

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