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104 Mexican forest firefighters leave for Canada to help battle flames

Chetumal, Q.R. — More than 100 firefighters from the National Forestry Commission (Conafor) are heading to Canada to help fight fires.

A group of 104 fighters from the National Forestry Commission (Conafor) will travel to Canada to support the fight against 88 forest fires burning across several provinces.

“They are the best, the most prepared,” said David Rodríguez Brizuela, state delegate of Conafor adding, “They are those who have more courses and more certifications.”

Pablo César Chávez Carrillo

Colonel Pablo César Chávez Carrillo is part of this group of Mexicans specialized in fire management with a degree in Physical Education and Sports and a specialty in environmental sciences, management and sustainability. He also speaks English and has been a combatant for 10 years.

“Mexican fighters are physically very resistant. We are very hard workers. We are all terrain,” he says.

“Mexican fighters are very professional and we know what we are going to work for, to support,” said Pablo César Chávez Carrillo.

“In Canada fires are recurrent because of the type of vegetation they present. They are temperate-climate forests,” explained Reynaldo Jacobo Castillo, Head of the Forestry Protection Department of Conafor.

He says that from 1969 to 2018, 141 people were injured and 239 lost their lives fighting forest fires.

They were elements of CONAFOR, the army, the navy, ejidos and communities, barracks of firefighters, civil organizations and other federal, state and municipal agencies that lost the battle to protect the forests and jungles of Mexico.

In spite of the preparation and the physical training, when they are facing the fire, they expose their life and they risk to suffer burns, he explained.

In 2016, 42 Mexican firefighters helped fight fires in Canada and in 2017, 108 headed north to combat flames.

This year, 104 have headed north for 32 days of fighting fires in Canada, making it the third time Mexican firefighters have helped fight Canadian forest fires. Of the group, 32 are from the state of Quintana Roo, including one woman.