200-member B.C. crew off to Oregon wildfires, 200 more may be assigned: Premier

VICTORIA — Two hundred British Columbia firefighters are heading to Oregon to help with devastating wildfires in that state.

A joint statement from the premier's office and the Ministry of Forests says the firefighters and related personnel are being sent to Redmond, Ore.

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It also says discussions are underway with officials in Oregon and Washington state regarding deployment of another 200-member contingent from B.C.

All the firefighters are BC Wildfire Service employees and officials say they will work separately from U.S. crews given the challenge posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier John Horgan says 800 wildfire service employees volunteered for service in the U.S. northwest, which makes him "very proud."

U.S. officials say dozens of wildfires are burning across California and Idaho, as well as Washington and Oregon, and firefighters have been requested from Canada, nine other U.S. states and as far away as Israel.

Forests Minister Doug Donaldson says B.C. has experienced a moderate wildfire season and the province is fortunate to be able to help.

"B.C. firefighters who are willing to be deployed out of the country during this challenging time deserve a lot of credit for their professionalism," he says in the statement.

B.C. has agreed to send initial attack firefighters trained to be first at the scene of new blazes.

Several 20-member crews that can work on large fires and remain self-sufficient in the field for up to 72 hours have also been assigned, along with managers, supervisors and other leaders, the statement says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 17, 2020

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