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Biggest Mexico firefighter deployment abroad heads to Canada

153102_537836_updates.jpgMexican firefighters arrive at the Edmonton International Airport to help fight wildfires in northern Alberta, July 9, 2015. CBC News/Files

OTTAWA: A second wave of Mexican firefighters was to land Thursday in Canada's westernmost British Columbia province to help combat wildfires, in the largest ever deployment of Mexican firefighters abroad, officials said.

One hundred and eight Mexican firefighters landed in British Columbia at the beginning of August. Another 102 will arrive Thursday from the Mexican National Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Environment and Territorial Development of Jalisco.

"In total, there will be 210 Mexican firefighters deployed in Canada, the biggest deployment ever of Mexican firefighters abroad," Mexican officials said in a statement.

This was made possible thanks to a 2016 memorandum of understanding between Canada and Mexico to exchange wildfire management resources.

Mexico sent 42 firefighters to fight wildfires in neighboring Alberta province last year, and in January 58 firefighters helped Chile put out blazes.

The first wave to arrive in Canada this summer are currently deployed in Williams Lake and Quesnel in the interior of the province, helping to spot and extinguish hot spots.

"This is the first time we've seen this much smoke," Juan Villa, the group's spokesman, told public broadcaster CBC shortly after arriving in the region.

A state of emergency has been in effect in British Columbia since July 7.

Most of the 46,000 people who were forced to flee have been able to return to their homes, but 7,000 are still subject to evacuation orders.

As of Wednesday, there were still 150 active fires in British Columbia. Some 3,800 firefighters, including 600 from other Canadian provinces, have been mobilized.

Since April, more than 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) have been blackened by 942 forest fires in British Columbia.

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