Canada dispatched 21 fire management specialists to New South Wales on Tuesday to help authorities in the southeastern Australian state battle raging bushfires that threaten several coastal communities, officials at Natural Resources Canada said.
This is the first time Canadian firefighters have been deployed to Australia under the Exchange of Wildland Fire Management Resources agreement that was signed in 2016, said Nicole Green, a spokesperson for NRC.
The 38-day deployment involves staff from five provincial agencies and Parks Canada, Green told Radio Canada International.
It came following a request by the National Resource Sharing Centre in Melbourne, which had asked for help from Canadian wildlife agencies to fight bushfires along the east coast of Australia.
The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) had already deployed a liaison officer who worked with Australian authorities since mid-November to help them determine how Canada could best support the firefighting effort, NRC officials said.
“The support of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre partners has been vital to the effectiveness of our wildfire and preparedness and response,” Green said. “Natural Resources Canada provides funding to the CIFFC and we appreciate its excellent work in efficiently arranging for the requested resources.”
More than 100 fires continued to burn across New South Wales on Tuesday and about half were uncontained.
Strong westerly winds worsened many of the blazes throughout the day.
Emergency-level alerts were also issued for fires on the outskirts of Newcastle and Sydney, including an out-of-control bushfire north of Penrith, ABC News reported.
New South Wales officials estimate that the bushfires have scorched more than 1.9 million hectares of land since July 1, including 800,000 hectares in the state’s national parks, some of which are UNESCO world heritage sites.
The Canadian contribution includes personnel from Parks Canada; from Aviation, Forest Fire and Emergency Services Branch Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry; from Manitoba Department of Sustainable Development Wildfire Program; from Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency; from Alberta Agriculture and Forestry – Wildfire Management Branch; and from British Columbia Wildfire Service.
Australia has frequently sent resources to Canada to support Canadian firefighters during some of the worst wildfires in recent history.