The Heroes and Heroics of Fort McMurray Part 3
As you know, on May 1st 2016, wildfires swept through Wood Buffalo, Alberta. These wildfires raged over thousands of acres of forest in days, and continues to grow. The Fort McMurray fires terrorized, and displaced, over 90,000 residents and workers. This evacuation was the largest in Canadian history, and the third largest environmental evacuation in the world. The fires hit record breaking temperatures of 32.8 Celsius. The Canadian people came together to organize aid, and bring hope to those fleeing.
Here are some of the EVERYDAY HEROES who compassionately joined with the people of Fort McMurray.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially declined international support, 1,000 firefighters from around the world are now joining the roughly 1,200 firefighters presently in Fort McMurray, coming from as far away as Alaska, U.S. and South Africa. The North America reinforcements have already arrived, while 300 South Africans will arrive in the coming week.
A 10-day boot camp has been set up by Canadian trainers to quickly brief and prepare the reinforcements. The South African governments see this as an opportunity, to both repay a debt to Canada for our support for the anti-apartheid struggle, and to lift up the lives of jobless South African youths. It’s the biggest foreign aid deployment the country has seen yet.
From a personal perspective, Sibongile Zwane, one of the coming firefighters, says that she found the wildfire frightening when she first saw it on the news. She’d never seen wildfires that could jump roads or climb to the tops of tall trees. She had never travelled outside South African prior, nor travelled on an airplane.
“That fire is so big and they can’t extinguish it and they need help,” Ms. Zwane said. “I’m excited to go. The Canadians taught us how to extinguish those tall fires with special hoses.
About 50 South Africans had already come to aid Canada with fires before. They, along with the rest of 250 workers, are among the most fittest and skilled of the 5,000 in the Working On Fire government organization. Of particular note is the large amount of woman that make up the ranks.
In a speech at the farewell ceremony, Mr. Pillay (managing director) told the firefighters: “The pride of our nation rests on your shoulders. Fly our flag high with dignity and honour. Today starts a journey for all of you, where your lives will be changed.”
Each firefighter will bring home roughly $1,500 CAD, which is immense and will help many of them start new homes, support their families, or begin post-secondary educations. One firefighter, 22-year old Denzil van der Merwe, must support a family of five after the death of his parents.
“This will be the experience of a lifetime – something that I can tell my children about some day,” he said.
“It’s a high risk and a big challenge, but I think I’m capable. I can prove myself and prove my country. I have joy in my heart. We can show the world that we love what we do. We love to save lives and protect nature.”
To these coming, everyday heroes, we salute them and thank them for their aid and bravery.
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