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SA: Second batch of firefighters headed to Canada to combat wildfires

Fire fighters from the environmental protection organisation, Working On Fire as seen during a training session at the Kishugu Training Centre in Mbombela on June 13, 2023.   -  
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South Africa

Under a scorching sun, 200 South African firefighters wrapped up a last round of training on Tuesday before flying out to help Canadian firefighters.

After completing their last round of training, this second batch of South African firefighters are headed to Canada to battle wildfires.

Nearly 17,800 square miles of forest have burned since the beginning of the year, well above previous averages.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau admitted, "Canada's resources were stretched." South Africa is one of many nations coming to Canada's aid, with Australia, the United States, Mexico, New Zealand, France, Spain and Portugal also among those sending firefighters.

"The South African government and Canada have got a memorandum of understanding assisting each other in case of emergency regarding veld and forest fires," Peter Van De Merwe, the Work On Fire national operations manager said.

"They requested assistance from the Working On Fire program, which is an expanded public works program funded by the South African government."

Wildfires erupting across the country

The forestry scientist will be leading the group. They were training in the eastern city of Mbombela.

The 'Working on Fire' organization funded by South Africa's ministry of forest and environmental affairs. It recruits and trains unemployed people aged between 18 and 35 from "high fire prone areas".

Firefighter Pontsho Lefifi was proud to wear the uniform: "It will be a good pleasure to represent my country, and it will always be an opportunity just for everyone to see that, that I’m that woman, I’m on that 25% of women that are representing our country there in Canada, and we are ready to work hard and also to keep an end to that fire."

A first group of more than 200 South African firefighters deployed to Canada's province of Alberta early last week.

Canada currently is experiencing the worst fire season ever, in the last month fires have erupted in almost every of Canada's 10 provinces.

Dubbed Mzanzi Hotshots-2 the "highly qualified" firefighters will leave for Edmonton, Canada on Wednesday (Jun. 14).

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