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

RCMP, firefighters rally in support for health care workers in Kelowna

Pandosy Street was packed with supporters Saturday night

Kelowna RCMP plan mini parade past KGH to recognize health care workers

Kelowna officers will flash lights and sounds both Saturday and Sunday night

Perry and Stanley awarded top UBC Okanagan rookies

The volleyball star and soccer star won the prize over Heat’s virtual awards banquet

Interior Health officials outline pandemic response in virtual town hall

Kelowna-Lake County MLA Norm Letnick moderates digital discussion, Q&A with Interior Health leadership

Second Vernon-area high school exposed to COVID-19

Kalamalka Secondary School staff, students urged to self-isolate if showing symptoms

B.C. is seeing the highest rate of COVID-19 recovery in Canada, and there’s a few reasons why

British Columbia was one of the first to see rise in COVID-19 cases, and has also switched up testing

No hesitation; two bystanders assist in South Okanagan house fire rescue

“I’d do it for anybody,” says Penticton man after assisting in house fire rescue

WATCH: Okanagan producer treats neighbours to live music from safe distance

Neighbours practiced social distancing as Jeff Johnson played songs from his front steps

Sewers stitch masks to free up supplies for front-line health-care workers

“We have little old ladies sewing up a storm,” said Joan Davis

Experts weigh in on best handling of groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

Study suggests the virus can live for up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic

COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

Spain warns EU’s future at stake; New York governor calls Trump’s idea ‘federal declaration of war

Earth Hour 2020 kicks off online Saturday night

Action moves online due to COVID-19

Okanagan woman baking for those in need amid COVID-19

Vernon’s Crystal Hedlund launched a GoFundMe page to generate funds for baking materials

Okanagan distillery hands out thousands of sanitizer bottles, needs help in COVID-19 fight

Okanagan Springs is donating hand sanitizer to help fill COVID-induced shortages

Most Read