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

Lightning blamed for multiple fire starts across Kootenays

Southeast Fire Centre says ground crews, air support responding to fires near Revelstoke, Nakusp

Residents using millions of litres of water during heat wave: City

Millions of litres of water were delivered to residents and businesses on… Continue reading

Search suspended for man missing in Kootenay River near Canal Flats

Man reported missing after swimming into river to rescue dog that had been swept into the current

Fire activity picking up as thunderstorms roll through Southeast Fire Centre

The Southeast Fire Centre is reporting increased activity as the heat wave… Continue reading

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Travel restrictions inspiring co-operation in border communities

Small border towns are asking for exemption to travel ban

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Raptors kneel for both American and Canadian anthems ahead of tipoff

Majority of players have substituted their names on the backs of their jerseys with racial and social justice messages

Wild’s Mathew Dumba makes anti-racism speech, kneels ahead of Blackhawks vs. Oilers

Matt Dumba, 26, took to center ice to speak on behalf of fellow members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance

Most Read