6 August 2018
Six New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) firefighters are heading to Canada tonight to help contain the massive wildfires raging across British Columbia.
Their departure follows the deployment of three NZDF firefighters to the United States on Friday.
The NZDF personnel form part of the teams being deployed by Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), in response to requests for assistance from United States and Canadian authorities.
Brigadier John Boswell, the Land Component Commander, said the NZDF always stood ready to lend a hand to friends who were in trouble.
“Our firefighters are highly skilled and experienced,” Brigadier Boswell said. “They are regularly called upon for emergencies in New Zealand and overseas, and while controlling extensive blazes is demanding work, their skills will make a significant contribution to the massive coalition effort to battle the fires.”
Sergeant Alex Walker, who is leading the NZDF team deployed to the United States, said they were all looking forward to supporting the multinational effort.
“It is a great opportunity to show that we are an asset not just in New Zealand but also internationally.
“Working as part of a multinational team, especially with the Australians, will be a great development opportunity for us,” Sergeant Walker said.
Corporal Thomas Grant said the deployment to the United States would be his second overseas since he joined the NZDF as a firefighter in 2011.
“It’s an opportunity to help people, which is why I decided to join the Defence Force, and to showcase our skills,” said Corporal Grant, who was one of 10 NZDF firefighters who helped combat bushfires in northwest Tasmania in January and February 2016.
Fellow firefighter Corporal Reginald Reid said their training and experience had equipped them to deal with potentially challenging scenarios in the fire zones.
“Every fire is different and the situation on the ground changes every hour. But we’ve got heaps of training and experience in dealing with large bushfires and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
There are about 90 bushfires raging across 14 states in the north-western part of the United States. In northern California alone, the fire has scorched more than 100,000 acres, killed six people, damaged more than 800 homes and displaced more than 50,000 people.
In Canada, authorities have recorded 1,085 wildfires since the fire season began on 1 April, burning nearly 680 square kilometres of woodland.