Kiwis to help fight Canada forest fires

Troops from the 3rd Canadian Division's Immediate Response Unit (West) Company A help to...
Troops from the 3rd Canadian Division's Immediate Response Unit (West) Company A help to extinguish a wildfire hotspot near Montreal Lake, Saskatchewan. REUTERS/Canadian Forces/MCpl Melanie Ferguson
Firefighters from rural New Zealand are flying to Canada to help battle blazes raging in almost 800,000 hectares of forest.

The western Canada wildfires have forced thousands of people to evacuate and thick smoke has triggered air quality warnings across the country and into the United States.

One of the fires was more than five times the size of Saskatchewan's largest city Saskatoon, officials said.

New Zealand rural fire officer Kevin O'Connor said 16 firefighters were leaving Auckland for Canada on Tuesday.

The firefighters would fly into Vancouver before transferring to Edmonton in Alberta to start an expected five-week deployment providing frontline support to local firefighters, he said.

"Our people have a range of skills in high demand during lengthy firefighting operations," Mr O'Connor said.

"These include logistics, planning, finance, ferrying supplies into remote locations and the use of aircraft."

The deployment followed a request from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre earlier this week.

About 800,000 hectares of forest are burning across the states of Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Colombia, as well as in neighbouring Alaska.

New Zealand previously lent support to Canadian authorities in 2009 during a serious outbreak of wildfires.

Firefighters from New Zealand have also helped to stamp out blazes in Australia nine times and in the United States five times in the past 15 years.


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