As an “out-of-control” wildfire continues to grow around the oil town of Fort McMurray in the western Canadian province of Alberta, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declined on Monday an offer by Russia to dispatch massive water bombers and fire fighting specialists to battle the blaze.
Trudeau thanked Russia for the offer but said there was no need for it.
“One of the things that has been touching over the past days is not just how Canadians have been stepping up from across the country to support their friends in Fort McMurray but how the international community has been affected and responding to this tragedy, to this ongoing challenge,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
“The good news is from the support that we have seen from Canadians across the country, different provinces sending over waterbombers, engaged in all sorts of different ways, firefighters coming from all across the country to help, there is no need to accept any international assistance at this point.”
Russia’s Minister of Emergency Measures Vladimir Puchkov offered to dispatch heavy water bombers based on the Il-76 transport air plane platform and experts on fighting wildfires on May 5th.
The fire around Fort McMurray, in the heartland of Canada’s oil sands industry, has already destroyed over 1,600 structures and has forced nearly 90,000 people in the oil producing region to flee their homes. The fire has also resulted in the shutdown of about one third of Canada’s oil production.
The government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper sharply downgraded Canada’s relations with Russia over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014 and its support for pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine. However, the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, which came to power last fall, has advocated for a re-engagement with Russia while still criticizing President Vladimir Putin’s policies in Ukraine.
Currently there are more than 500 firefighters battling the blaze, which is now covering an area of approximately 161,000 hectares in and around Fort McMurray, along with 15 helicopters, 14 air tankers and 88 other pieces of equipment, according to the latest Alberta government update.
With files from The Canadian Press