P.E.I. firefighters volunteer to battle wildfires in Alberta, N.W.T. and B.C.
The job is dangerous, the task grueling.
Yet several P.E.I. firefighters are volunteering to put themselves in harm’s way.
Seven Island firefighters are heading to western Canada to help with increasingly serious wildfires.
Five Islanders left for Alberta Tuesday as part of a joint P.E.I./Nova Scotia fire team. At the end of the week another Islander will be going to the Northwest Territories to act as a fire strike team leader and a seventh person will be going to British Columbia to help with fire equipment repairs.
Ken Mayhew, information officer with P.E.I. Department of Forests, Fish and Wildlife, says the firefighters have to meet a national standard for fitness before getting the green light.
“It’s physically demanding,’’ Mayhew says of battling raging forest fires. “It’s heavy. It’s hot.’’ All of the P.E.I. firefighters that got the nod to go west to do battle with the blazes have received training in fighting forest fires.
Mayhew says the local firefighters are pleased to help out but also to earn some great experience.
“This is an opportunity to work at a scale that you don’t normally get on Prince Edward Island,’’ he says.
Robert Mitchell, minister of Communities, Land and Environment, says two firefighters were dispatched from P.E.I. last month to help with fires in northern Alberta and the province is pleased to be able to support the new request for help.
“In addition to the help they provide to the other provinces, they will also return home with knowledge and skills that can be used if Prince Edward Island were to face serious wildfires in future years,’’ says Mitchell.
Mayhew anticipates the seven Island firefighters heading west this week will spend two to three weeks helping in the effort to fight the wildfires.
“It’s very exhausting work and they need a break,’’ he says.