Western wild­fires

P.E.I. fire­fight­ers vol­un­teer to bat­tle wild­fires in Al­berta, N.W.T. and B.C.

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE - THE GUARDIAN jday@the­guardian.pe.ca

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.

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