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Convoy of 200 B.C. firefighters head south to help U.S. fire efforts

Wildfire convoy heads south

A large convoy of more than 200 British Columbian firefighters are driving across the U.S. border Friday morning to help fight the many giant wildfires that are ravaging the American west.

More than 800 BC Wildfire Service crew members expressed interest in helping their American counterparts, and on Friday, 207 hopped in their vehicles and began the long drive to Oregon.

Thursday, the firefighters all met in Chilliwack, and the convoy of trucks hit the road Friday morning at 6:30 a.m., with Redmond, Ore. as their destination.

With 28 active fires burning in Oregon, and conditions changing by the hour, the firefighters don't know which fires they'll be dispatched to. But there will be no shortage of work for them over their roughly two-week deployment, with 388,000 hectares in the state having burned so far, and thousands of homes destroyed.

“Almost half of the entire organization said they were willing to go the U.S. so I would say that's a pretty good representation of the willingness for these crews to be helping out when they can, even internationally,” said Forrest Tower with the BC Wildfire Service.

Thursday, Premier John Horgan said he was “very proud” of the firefighters heading south.

The B.C. firefighters will join up with other firefighters from across Canada who are heading down Friday to help the American crews. Prior to this current deployment, about 60 firefighters from Quebec have been assisting the American wildfire efforts in California. 

While B.C. airtankers have crossed south of the border this fire season to help extinguish American fires, this is the first time B.C. firefighter ground crews have gone to help the Americans in a couple years.

With the border closed for recreational travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's assistance came with some extra challenges.

“They'll all be working within their own B.C. bubble, so they're not working with American crews, inter-mixing ... Everyone's keeping separate while they're down there,” Tower said. “There's definitely some added complications to this deployment for sure.”

The United States will be covering the cost of the B.C. firefighting efforts, in addition to any extra costs that may come as a result of COVID-19.

Returning crews will be required to quarantine for 14 days as well once they're back home, the costs of which will also be covered by the United States. 



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