Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says military personnel being deployed to British Columbia will be ready to hit the ground running as they join wildfire fighting efforts.

Sajjan announced Tuesday that 350 troops would be sent to the province to help the BC Wildfire Service, which has been stretched to its limits.

The military was already providing air support to the B.C. firefighting efforts, and Sajjan told CKNW’s The Afternoon Show on Wednesday it had the next wave of troops waiting in Edmonton for an official request from B.C.

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“We had put what’s called an immediate response unit, about 300 soldiers, on standby in case in case additional resources are needed to actually fight the fires,” he said.

“They’ve already have the training, the type-three firefighting training. So what that means is when they arrive, they’re ready to go.”

The current national defence policy is to have enough such units on standby across the country to deal with multiple crises at once, a situation that has borne out under climate change, Sajjan said.


Click to play video: 'B.C. wildfire: Close encounter with fast-moving fire near Ashcroft'







B.C. wildfire: Close encounter with fast-moving fire near Ashcroft


B.C. wildfire: Close encounter with fast-moving fire near Ashcroft

Along with the B.C. deployment, troops are currently in the field in the Yukon, battling floods, and in Manitoba fighting fires.

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As troops are deployed, additional soldiers will be rotated in, trained, and put on standby Sajjan said.

“(We) monitor very closely, working with the provinces and territories, and when that’s when the official request is made. We already know exactly what is needed to respond so there is absolutely no delay in getting the support there,” he said.

The deployment was unrelated to B.C.’s state of emergency, he said, with the request for help made through an independent process.

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About 90 per cent of service personnel are vaccinated against COVID-19, he added.

The exact date the troops will arrive and locations where they will be deployed has not been announced, but they are expected to build fire lines on high-priority fires, tackle hotspots, and hold existing fire lines.

Last Thursday, the BC Wildfire Service said it was completely taxed, and that it was “unable to commit to all new ignitions” with existing resources.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 3,000 people battling 282 fires across the province.

A 20-person crew of firefighters from Quebec arrived on Friday, while another 100 firefighters from Mexico are expected to arrive on Saturday.




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