Canada is experiencing its worst wildfire season on record, however, firefighting efforts across the country are allowing more people to head home.
This includes soldiers from Alberta sent to fight the British Columbia fires and Northwest Territories residents finally getting the green light to return home.
On Tuesday night, 45 soldiers from across Alberta returned to CFB Edmonton. The troops in the 41 Canadian Brigade Group were in northern B.C. for the past two weeks assisting B.C. Wildfire Service.
The soldiers only received a day of training in Calgary before heading out and for one reservist, this was his first operation.
“I am fresh out of my training. I was home for a week, volunteered right away and was shipped out within a couple days,” said Pte. Jonathan Schonauer with the 41 Canadian Brigade Group.
Schonauer, among other soldiers, was working to contain the blaze in Vanderhoof, B.C.
He says it was a no-brainer to step up and help the residents of the small town.
“I just thought as if it was my own hometown. I just wanted to help out and hopefully bring some relief to those who live over there,” said Schonauer.
The troops worked alongside B.C. Wildfire and were assigned to different wildfire crews, assisting in numerous ways, including mopping up and spraying down flames.
“We were setting up a fire guard in advance of the fire coming our way to stop it,” said Cpl. Anderson Smith. “Pushing out about 50 to 100 feet and setting up a wet line along with putting out hot spots to allow for that fire to be stopped.”
Many of the troops who travelled to northern B.C. had never fought wildfires before and said the experience put things into perspective.
“It really drove home the scope of what B.C. is currently dealing with, with the wildfire situation and just how largely spread across the province that problem is right now,” said Sgt. Ryan LaFontaine.
Hay River re-entry plan
The soldiers from across Alberta weren’t the only ones excited to be home. Step one of Hay River’s re-entry plan has now begun, allowing residents from that part of the Northwest Territories to start going home.
As of 9 a.m. Wednesday, workers from essential services such as health, police, schools and more were allowed to enter the town still under evacuation alert.
In a social media post, the town’s mayor, Kandis Jameson, says she’s happy to welcome residents back.
“The amazing work of all the fire crews and support people have allowed Hay River to stand under the most dire conditions. We look forward to seeing you all home soon,” read the post.
The town says essential workers will need approximately four days to complete preparations for the general public to return. This would be on Sept. 17, but council will meet later in the week to assess the risk for residents.
Registration is now open for those who left Hay River by air and need a flight home during Phase 2 of the re-entry plan. The flights will not be booked until the re-entry date is confirmed.