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firefighters from south africa in their yellow uniforms standing in formation
The Globe and Mail

Dancing into Action: South African Fire Team Spreads Joy Amidst Alberta’s Wildfires

215 South African firefighters flew 15,000 km to help tackle Alberta wildfires

Firefighters from South Africa arrived in Edmonton over the weekend to assist with the Alberta wildfires, and their arrival was met with enthusiasm.

A total of 215 fire crew members, including 200 firefighters and 15 managers, travelled all the way from South Africa wearing their bright yellow uniforms.

They even performed a traditional song and dance at the airport, which was captured in a video shared on social media by Working on Fire, part of South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries, and Environment.

The firefighters flew over 15,000 km from Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in eastern South Africa near the Mozambican border and arrived in Edmonton early Sunday morning.

They are scheduled to stay for 35 days to help combat the ongoing wildfires in Alberta.

Before coming to Canada, the South African team received three days of intensive training at the Kishugu Training Academy.

Alberta has been experiencing an unusually severe wildfire season, with 73 active wildfires and the northern part of the province being at high risk.

However, on Saturday, the provincial state of emergency, which had been in effect since May 6, was finally lifted.

Many Albertans expressed their gratitude to the South African firefighters on social media. One Twitter user wrote, “Bless every one of them. I’m sorry we had to call, but so so grateful they answered.”

Another user, Susan Padget, tweeted, “Thanks for coming and helping out in Canada! Love the joyful musical arrival too!”

This is the fifth time South African firefighters have been deployed to Canada. They previously came to Edmonton in 2016 to assist with the Fort McMurray wildfire and travelled to Manitoba in 2021 to help with wildfires there.

Working on Fire sees this as a testament to the strong partnership between the two countries. Another group of 200 firefighters is expected to arrive in Alberta next week or the week after.

The South African crew is unique because it recruits members from marginalized communities and provides them with fire awareness, prevention, and suppression skills training.

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