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Jalisco Bomberos Home After Putting Out Alberta Fires

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August 1, 2019

About 100 firefighters from Jalisco, Mexico passed through Athabasca after helping tackle the McMillan Wildfire Complex that burned through 273,045 hectares in the Slave Lake area. (Margaryta Ignatenko)

Athabasca, Alberta - Athabasca's Riverfront Park was brighter than usual July 26, as the bright yellow uniforms donned by 100 volunteer firefighters from Jalisco, Mexico passed through town on their way to Edmonton.

The bomberos spent five weeks in Alberta fighting the McMillan Wildfire Complex and were set to head back to Mexico on July 27. Fires in the McMillan Wildfire Complex started in May, according to the Slave Lake Forest Area Update. The fires have burned through 273,045 hectares around Slave Lake and Wabasca, but have now been extinguished, or declared to be under control.

The crew from Mexico arrived June 23 and worked two 14-day shifts fighting the fires, said Hector Trejo the agency representative for SEMADET, the department of environment and rural development for the Mexican state of Jalisco.

Trejo said the program was part of a kind of exchange, a mutual aid agreement between the governments of Jalisco and Alberta. He said the aid agreement started in 2005 with three firefighters coming up to Canada, receiving training that they could then take back home with them.

"Alberta has been training down in Mexico, too," he said.

"It's a really great opportunity that's mutually beneficial to us and them," said Jorge Camacho-Tornero, wildfire ranger for the Peace River Forest Area.

The Slave Lake Forest Area Update thanked those who helped with the McMillan Wildfire Complex. "Since the start of these wildfires in May, we have received firefighters and support staff from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Parks Canada, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Mexico," it states. "Thank you to everyone who has assisted, the support has been incredible."

The Jalisco crew happily spent three days off at the beach, said Camacho-Torenero, and were housed at Portage College's Lac La Biche campus.

"It was fun," said Trejo. "It's always great coming up and helping."

Original article