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Nunavik firefighters get training to combat wildfires

July 2, 2024 
By The Canadian Press


July 2, 2024, Nunavik, Que. — Firefighters from eight Nunavik communities gathered in Kuujjuaq in June to take part in a two-day wildfire training session.

“It is becoming more of a risk in the North,” said Mitch Vail, Kativik Regional Government’s civil security operations co-ordinator who organized the training.

“Last year, there were some significant fires,” he said.

“They never ended up threatening any communities, but it certainly was enough to make us take note.”

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Firefighters from eight of Nunavik’s southernmost communities, which are the most vulnerable to wildfires, received kits that include water pumps, hoses, nozzles and “everything that is needed for a wildfire intervention,” Vail said.

Then SOPFEU, Quebec’s society that protects forests from fires, visited Kuujjuaq to train the firefighters on this new equipment.

Vail said the first day of training was a theory class and the second day included practical training that allowed participants to set up the kits and learn how to deploy them.

“The risk is there now,” said Vail.

“[This training] is about being prepared for what I say is inevitable.”

Kuujjuaq, Kuujjuaraapik, Kangiqsualujjuaq and Umiujaq are the communities most at risk since they have trees nearby.

The other communities have a risk of tundra fires, which start from brush. Vail said these types of fires can be as volatile and dangerous as forest fires.

The plan is for the remaining six northernmost communities to receive the same training next year.

“There was a sense of camaraderie at the training,” said Vail. “The firefighters took it seriously, they volunteered to come.”

He said an emphasis will be placed on offering various types of firefighter training in the coming months.

Usually, SOPFEU responds to wildfires in Nunavik but having local firefighters trained makes the response quicker and more efficient.

“They have manpower, they have air support, whatever is needed as far as we have the capabilities of fighting these fires,” said Vail.

Over the past 10 years, Quebec has experienced an average of 299 forest fires per year, according to the SOPFEU website.


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