Crew from Alberta Métis settlement deployed to fight fires in Quebec

A group of firefighters from the East Prairie Métis Settlement in Alberta set off for Quebec Friday, where they’ll battle some of the fires that have plagued the province this summer.

About 600 firefighters from across Canada and parts of the U.S. have been called in to help fight the flames, sparked by hot, dry conditions, according to Quebec’s forest fire prevention agency, the Société de protection des forêts contre le feu.

The eight-member Alberta crew includes six people from the East Prairie Métis Settlement, a member from Driftpile First Nation and another from Whitefish Lake First Nation.

The group is eager to help tackle the Quebec fires, said Gerald Cunningham, president of Métis Settlements General Council.

Everybody has to work together — not just within our local area, but throughout the province and throughout the country.– Gerald Cunningham, Métis Settlements General Council President

“It’s important, just the fact that we’re able to provide a service and help people that are in need,” said Cunningham, a member of the East Prairie Métis Settlement, which is about 40 kilometres southeast of High Prairie.

“I think it’s important that everybody has to work together — not just within our local area, but throughout the province and throughout the country to wherever we can help to protect lives and protect the forest.”

There are about 60 active fires in Quebec, and Cunningham said the Alberta crew is well-equipped to fight them. For the past 15 summers, crews from the settlement have been deployed to various areas where additional assistance was needed, he said.

‘Proud of our guys’

East Prairie Métis Settlement is a small community, with a population of about 304 people, according to 2016 census data. Cunningham said firefighting helps sustain the community.

“There’s not a whole lot of economic development that’s happening in our community, and so firefighting has been basically one of the biggest employment opportunities that we have in our community,” he said.

Cunningham noted that he’s happy to have the crew represent the community while in Quebec.

“I’m very proud of our guys and the work that they do,” he said. “And our whole community is proud of them.”

A tweet about the crew from the Métis Settlements General Council received positive attention Friday, earning praise from Premier Rachel Notley and Indigenous Relations Minister Richard Feehan.

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