More B.C. firefighters among Canadians helping battle Australia wildfires

This picture taken on Dec. 31, 2019 shows a firefighter hosing down trees and flying embers in an effort to secure nearby houses from bushfires near the town of Nowra in the Australian state of New South Wales.

Saeed Khan / AFP via Getty Images

Fourteen B.C. firefighters are helping in Australia, where devastating wildfires have killed at least 18 people and millions of animals, scorched more than four million hectares, and destroyed more than 1,000 homes.

Shortly after Christmas, Canada sent more fire personnel to Australia, with 87 expected to be there by Saturday.

The original seven B.C. firefighters, who deployed to the country in early December, will return next Thursday, said Jamie Jeffreys, a spokesperson for the B.C. Wildfire Service.

Jeffreys said the 14 staffers are filling specialty roles including aviation, plans, operations, incident command and agency positions. They are spread out around the country where their help and expertise is needed most.

No B.C. firefighters have been injured, Jeffreys said, adding that safety remains a high priority.

“There is high fire activity in Australia and high temperatures are expected to continue,” said Jeffreys.

Three Australian firefighters have been killed by the wildfires, which have intensified this week due to high wind and temperatures soaring past 40 C.

Eight people have died in the eastern states of New South Whales and Victoria since Monday, and more than a dozen are missing, according to a Reuters report Thursday.

The national death toll is estimated to be at least 18 people, according to the BBC. Millions of animals have died in the flames, including an estimated third of the koala population.

On Thursday, military ships and helicopters were rescuing thousands of people stranded on beaches on Australia’s east coast.


-With files from Reuters


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