BC welcomes Mexican firefighters to help with wildfire situation

By Adam Donnelly
August 4, 2017 - 2:55pm

KAMLOOPS — With more than 100 wildfires still burning in British Columbia, and no end in sight to the hot, dry weather, there looks to be no reprieve for the BC Wildfire Service, and others battling the blazes across BC. But help is on the way from south of the border - south-south of the border to be exact - as 108 firefighters from Mexico arrived in Kamloops today, to lend relief to the crews on the front lines.

They arrived this morning on a Canadian Forces Hercules transport plane from Abbotsford. 108 highly trained wildfire personnel from Mexico’s national wildfire service touched down at Fulton Field Friday morning, ready to jump onto the front lines of BC’s wildfires.

“Last year we deployed 42 people to Alberta to help with the fires in Ft. McMurray,” spokesman Juan Villa explained. “This is the second year Mexican [firefighters] have come here to help with wildfires.”

Juan Villa has been fighting wildfires in Mexico for eight years. He says despite some differences in the type of forests they’ll be working in; the job remains constant - no matter where you’re doing it.

“The vegetation in Mexico and here, in some places, could be very different,” Villa said. “For example, the jungle, the rainforest [in Mexico] is very different, but all the firefighters have the same protocols… Of course, we can adapt and work together with the Canadian firefighters.”

According to BC’s Chief Fire Information Officer, Kevin Skrepnek: “Safety is always going to be a top priority for firefighting agencies around the world. Certainly, that's something we’re going to be focusing on, and that's why we bring in crews that are so trained to this degree.”

While 108 firefighters doesn't sound like a significant force, Skrepnek says this could give relief to some of the personnel who have been on the front lines since some of these fires have started.

“This is a pretty sizeable force,” Skrepnek explained. “BC has a little over 1000 of our type one government firefighters, so to have 108 of these skilled, trained personnel is great. Not only does it add to our numbers, regarding having more [firefighters] on hand to respond to conditions, it also gives our folks a chance to rest.”

While the Mexican contingent is here first and foremost to help fight the wildfires which are wreaking havoc across BC, Juan believes their presence is also an opportunity to strengthen ties between out two nations.

“This is a huge experience for us,” Villa explained. “Many firefighters learn a lot here. Of course, they’re trained, and they can do their work, but I think if we strengthen the international relationship on fire, it’s good for everybody. Not just Mexico.”

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