In this image made from video, officials block the Princes Highway as wildfires approach in South Coast, New South Wales Australia, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Wildfires burning across Australia’s two most-populous states have trapped residents of a seaside town in apocalyptic conditions, destroyed many properties and caused fatalities. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Channel 9, Channel 7 via AP)

Canada will consider more aid for Australia as bushfires burn across country

Nearly 100 Canadian fire experts have been sent to Australia to help battle fires

Nearly 100 Canadian fire experts have been sent to Australia to help battle one of the worst wildfire seasons the country has ever seen.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne says Canada is willing to do more to help, but a spokesman from his office says all Australia has requested so far is more people.

“I have communicated with my Australian counterpart to reiterate that we are prepared to consider further assistance as necessary,” Champagne said in a written statement. ”When wildfires spread through Canadian communities, Australia answered our call for help. We are proud to do the same.”

Canada has offered money and equipment to aid other countries in the past, including a $15-million offer of cash and temporary use of some water-bombers when the Amazon rain forest was on fire in Brazil and Bolivia last summer. Global Affairs Canada has not yet said whether any of that money flowed or if the water-bombers were deployed.

University of British Columbia biology professor Karen Hodges said it is common for the international firefighting community to share resources and expertise in times of need.

“Whenever there are catastrophic wildfires other countries are willing to help,” she said.

Australian firefighters, alongside Americans, Mexicans, and New Zealanders, came to Canada in 2018 to help British Columbia beat back the worst fire season that province has ever seen.

The Australian national council for fire and emergencies said Wednesday 97 Canadians have deployed to Australia to help this season along with 159 Americans and others from New Zealand. One group of Canadians arrived to cheers and applause as they pushed through the doors into the airport arrivals area in Sydney on Jan. 6.

Angela Bogdan, the Canadian consul general in Australia, greeted the group and told them the Australians are extremely grateful for their help.

“I cannot underscore enough that in making this long journey you’ve brought hope and reassurance to these people,” said Bogdan.

The first group of 21 experts who arrived in early December headed home Wednesday, as another group of eight arrived. New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian tweeted a thank-you to them Wednesday, saying “NSW won’t forget what you have done.”

Most of the Canadians are there to help with aviation, logistics and fire behaviour, while Australia relies heavily on local volunteer firefighters to battle the blazes.

Widespread drought and multiple heatwaves are creating perfect conditions for fires, which have scorched millions of hectares of bushland since October. Australian sources seem to differ on how much land has burnt.

Fire agencies in New South Wales and Victoria, the two most populated states in Australia, reported on their websites that there were 3.9 million hectares and 1.2 million hectares of fires, respectively, burning on their territories right now. In New South Wales, 136 fires are being tracked, 36 of them out of control.

Officials in Australia say 25 people have been killed in the fires.

Last year was a bad year for fires in many parts of the world including in Russia, Angola, Indonesia and California. Environment experts say climate change is largely to blame for an increase in fire risk.

Hodges said in Australia, there are often many small, cooler-burning fires that take out dead scrub brush and grasses but don’t destroy the tree canopy. She said the difference this year is that because of drought and heat, the fires are burning hotter and far more trees are succumbing to the flames.

More than half a billion animals are believed to have perished in the fires.

Hodges said it will take Australia “decades” to recover the trees that have been lost.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Saanich among six communities facing ‘chronic shortage’ of daycare spaces

Findings appear in a report that also analyzed daycare in Central Saanich and Sidney

McKenzie interchange project drives towards completion

Motorists asked to continue following construction zone signage as crews will be on site into the fall

Tour de Rock turns community bubble relay race amid pandemic

Alumni will take on socially distanced leg of race in their hometowns

Victoria city council in support of floating dock on Gorge

City staff will bring forward a report on the dock in November

Uncertainty continues to surround completion date of upgrades to Sidney’s Reay Creek area

A spokesperson for federal government could not offer a new completion date

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Long-term care need pressuring acute care in Comox Valley, Strathcona

Region could use a couple of large facilities for seniors on the north part of the Island

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

‘Not criminally responsible’ hearing slated for man convicted of Abbotsford school stabbing

Gabriel Klein was found guilty in March of killing Letisha Reimer, 13, in 2016

Most Read