South African crews head home after helping battle B.C. wildfires

South African crews depart

More than 200 South African firefighters who have helped battle fires in B.C.’s Omineca region are on their way home after a farewell celebration.

For the past two weeks, the 215 firefighters have been aiding suppression efforts in the Vanderhoof and Fort St. James area.

They concluded their deployment Thursday, according to the BC Wildfire Service, and welcomed a number of agencies with a display of cultural heritage and traditional song and dance in honour of South African Heritage Day, which falls on Sept. 24.

In addition to the BC Wildfire Service, members of Ontario Natural Resources and Forestry, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Emergency Management and Climate Readiness were in attendance.

“Three countries. Six organizations dedicated to public safety,” said BCWS in a social media post.

Members of the U.S. incident management team—which was also supporting in Vanderhoof—and the Prince George Fire Centre’s information team including staff from Ontario and the Cariboo joined in the celebrations.

To end the night, the U.S. Incident Commander was invited to release the firefighters from duty and send them home.

“Immense thanks to our new friends for their support and sharing their culture. Have a safe journey home,” said BCWS.

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