Sixty-nine Canadians are giving up their holidays at home to join the battle for the first time against the deadly wildfires devastating vast tracts of several Australian states.
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre says a contingent of 21 highly trained staff from a variety of agencies left Canada on Dec. 3, for a 38 day deployment in New South Wales after the centre received an official request for assistance.
On Dec. 19 a second group of 30 Canadians was sent in for a 38 day deployment in the fire zone, and a further 18 are leaving on Dec. 30 for about a month.
Kim Connors, the executive director of the Winnipeg based CIFFC, says that Canada has called on Australian firefighters four times since 2015, and the "agreements are reciprocal in nature so it was the first time that Australia has needed help from Canada."
The CIFFC says crews from Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Yukon, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. are assisting with a variety of tasks including roles in command, aviation, planning, logistics and operations.
Record high temperatures and strong southerly winds are fanning more than 100 fires in New South Wales alone.
Two volunteer firefighters have been killed and dozens of homes have been lost since Thursday in the massive fires, including the Gospers Mountain blaze, which covered more than 460,000 hectares.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2019