114 South African firefighters are flying to Manitoba to combat the rampant wildfires.
By Donovan Martin
With wildfires rampant throughout Manitoba, more resources than Canada can expend are being used to combat them. With the province ablaze, international help was needed to protect citizens. And in this time of peril, over one hundred South African firefighters came to the rescue.
Tens of South Africans landed in Winnipeg Richardson International Airport on August 11, 2021. They arrived singing in chorus while holding their national flag. Their chorus filled the airport before they went on to get tested for COVID-19. “The singing is part of our culture,” Said Trevor Abrahams, the groups’ Managing Director and team leader. “In fact, when they are working, to get the rhythm working they tend to work in song.” Abrahams’ team is trained as part of the International Wildfire Training standards. Though this is their first time in Manitoba, they’ve combated fires elsewhere in Canada.
Director of Wildfire Service in Manitoba David Schafer is to have the South African teams work with the Canadian Armed Forces “We had 120 of their members assisting on fires and their first deployment is ending— Unless those rains continue, we have a lot of work ahead of us heading into the fall time.”
This difficult work includes 143 wildfires across the province. To cover as much ground as possible, the firefighters will work in separate groups. The areas they will be working in include the east side of Lake Winnipeg, in northwest Manitoba near The Pas, Cranberry, and Portage la Prairie. In 14-day stretches, the South African firefighters will work 12-14 hour shifts. Breaks will occur after each 2 week period. The firefighter may be fighting for as much as 6 weeks. Yet while they fight, Manitobans continue to cheer them on.
On Twitter, the Manitoban Government tweeted “#ThankYou to the over 100 South African firefighters who arrived today to aid in the suppression of Manitoba’s active wildfires.” Other Manitobans showed their overwhelming gratitude with a flood of heartwarming appreciative tweets to the South African firefighters.
Putting out over 100 wildfires is a daunting task; if Manitoba’s situation worsens, Canada will look to the international firefighting community to show the same support as South Africa did.