Ontario Firefighters Head to Australia to Battle Wildfires

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A firefighter hoses down bushland after a bushfire passed through the area near homes in the Sydney suburb of Pymble November 8, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray
ARCHIVE PHOTO: A firefighter hoses down bushland after a bushfire passed through the area near homes in the Sydney suburb of Pymble November 8, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

TORONTO – A group of Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) frontline workers is travelling around the world to help battle the deadly wildfires that on Thursday claimed the lives of two Australian forest firefighters.

“On behalf of OPSEU’s 165,000 members, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the brave Australian firefighters killed in the line of duty,” said OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “Frontline public service workers around the world put their lives on the line each and every day to protect their communities. We grieve this loss and honour their sacrifice.

“And to the Ontario forest firefighting workers on their way to Australia, I say: thank you for your commitment and, please, stay safe,” said Thomas. “You’re among the finest forest firefighters in the world, and we’re incredibly proud to be in the same union as you. When help is needed, we can count on OPSEU members like you to be there – then, now, always.”

The two young Australian firefighters were killed Thursday while fighting the massive wildfires that have been raging across the country for months. Three other firefighters were injured.

“This is a very sad day for all firefighters around the world,” said OPSEU Local 623 President Len Sedore. “We all know and accept the risks that we take when we choose this line of work, but it’s still heartbreaking when our colleagues are killed on the job. We’ll never forget the sacrifice they’ve made or the family and friends they’ve left behind.”

The MNRF workers travelling to Australia come from across the province and will be in Australia for a month-long deployment.

“While most of us here in Ontario are looking forward to a relaxing holiday with family and friends, these brave OPSEU members didn’t hesitate for a second when they were called to duty,” said OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida. “This is public service at its best: while others rush away from a deadly natural disaster, we rush in to help.

“I encourage everybody in OPSEU, and everybody in Ontario, to save a thought or a prayer for all the firefighters risking their lives to keep us safe.”