South African firefighters well-received in Canada

11 August 2015

South African firefighting crews have received high praise from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) for their excellent work ethic.

The South Africans, from Working on Fire, are in the north American country as part of international wildland firefighting teams where they are fighting multiple fires in Alberta. Hundreds of fires have swept across the western part of the country this season.

They have been in Canada since 21 July, and according to spokesman Linton Rensburg, they are expected to be there until 21 August.

The 48 members of the crew are participants in the South African Working on Fire programme and are in Canada as part of a resource-sharing arrangement between its firefighting agencies and South Africa.

They were initially deployed to Edmonton, where they helped with the suppression of wildland fires in the forests. Most of these fires have largely been contained, and the crews are busy with mopping up operations. One crew has started a second stint in Alberta, while the second has been deployed to assist in British Columbia.

Following their first two weeks in Canada, CIFFC released a positive Crew Performance Report lauding the South Africans for their physical fitness, productivity, health and safety, and mopping up operations.

High standards

“When we arrived here in Canada we knew already that the South African training standards and qualifications were verified against the Canadian, USA, Mexico, Australian and New Zealand systems and our training was way up there, being compatible with international standards,” said Trevor Wilson, the liaison officer of the South African crews.

According to Working on Fire managing director Llewellyn Pillay, the organisation has a long history of training young men and women to implement a range of integrated fire management products and services.

“Over the years we have trained thousands to implement products and services such as fire prevention, fire awareness, fire detection and fire suppression within the land owner community in Africa, Chile and Australia,” he said.

“Our upbeat and always happy South African crews with their song and dance have been well received in Canada and they have set positive examples to the local and international crews on how to build strong morale and teamwork.

“These local and international crews have begun to mimic this and are, like the South Africans, now also attending team meetings instead of being scattered resources as in the past.”

This was the first time that such an exercise had been undertaken in Canada and it would pave the way for future co-operation between the two countries, he added.

Source: Working on Fire