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Firefighter heading for hotspots in Canada

Wairarapa is joining the ranks of New Zealand firefighters deployed to battle Canada’s out-of-control wildfires.

This Thursday, Fire and Emergency [Fenz] Wairarapa group manager Craig Cottrill will be the first, and only local so far, to join 24 others in Fenz’s third deployment to Alberta.

Wildfires have raged in Canada since March in what is becoming known as the nation’s worst fire season, with The Economist reporting the burnt area as 16 times larger than normal.

“Typically we wouldn’t be assisting Canada this early in the season,” Cottrill said.

“For them to ask now is pretty extraordinary, they’re hugely grateful.”

In a statement accompanying its first deployment at the end of last month, Fenz said the wildfire season in Canada had started earlier than predicted due to unseasonably warm and dry weather, with Alberta, British Columbia and Nova Scotia battling wildfires.

Fenz described the situation western Canada was facing as “significant and the impact immense” with over a million hectares burnt.

Cottrill said reports from New Zealanders on the ground were that the scale of the fires was “much larger than anything we have seen”.

He said in addition to helping Canadian firefighters, for Fenz staff who specialise in battling wildfires, it would be the “pinnacle of our training”.

“You come back from the USA or Canada’s multi-hundred thousand-hectare wildfires, and can manage our own 10, 20, 30,000 hectare blazes with a lot more knowledge and skill.”

Cottrill said while frontline staff would be deployed to Alberta on two 14-day rotations, he would be shadowing Canada’s Type 1 Incident [most severe] Controller for a fortnight in British Columbia.

“There will be a massive amount of learning, this allows me to have the highest level of training I could have. There’s nothing more Fenz could do that would be higher than this.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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