South African firefighters in their hundreds have arrived in Canada to join a joint effort to bring the raging wildfires in the Alberta province under control.
The mission to Canada was a response to the plea by Canadian government, requesting help from abroad, as the wildfire becomes more wild, burning out of control.
The group organizer from Working on Fire, Linton Rensburg, says the mission is a golden opportunity that will present South African firefighters a platform to gain more experience, as most of them have not stepped out of the country, or even boarded a plane before.
“These firefighters are not volunteers, we haven’t taken them off the streets. They’re professionally trained and qualified and we’re quite confident that come challenges they will face in Canada, that they’re well prepared for this job,” he said
Meanwhile, the latest sign Canadian oil sands producers are coming back online after a massive wildfire swept through the area is the fact that Suncor Energy Inc.’s facilities north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, are expected to partially restart by the end of the week, as announced by the company said on Sunday.
The company’s statement revealed that the start-up of Suncor’s base plant and MacKay River sites is in progress, and “initial production” is expected by the end of the week.
However, there was no specification of the production volume expected as operations bounce back.
The company added that the bitumen capacities at Firebag and MacKay River are 203,000 and 38,000 barrels per day, respectively, and the base plant upgrader facility’s capacity is 350,000 barrels a day.
Most energy companies in the affected area have started restarting operations as the threat from the wildfire reduces.
But, Fort McMurray is still largely empty after its entire population of almost 90,000 was evacuated earlier this month. Evacuated residents may return as soon as Wednesday if the air quality improves together with other safety measures.
The wildfire cut Canadian oil output by a million barrels a day as it swept through more than 500,000 hectares across the northern part of the province of Alberta, crossing into the neighboring province of Saskatchewan.
Evacuation orders on all work camps and oil facilities in the area, including those of Suncor and its majority-owned Syncrude were lifted by authorities last week.
“There has been no damage to Suncor’s assets and all sites have enhanced fire mitigation and protection,” the company said.
4,000 employees and contractors have been moved back to the region for Suncor’s restart efforts, while 3,500 more are expected to move by next week.
The firefighters’ work was made easier by the higher humidity in recent days, and with the South African Firefighters on ground, the situation will be under control in no time.