Canada’s Wildland Firefighters are being pushed to their limits in extreme conditions
The collection of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere is increasing the Earth’s temperature – this is a fact. The effect of warming temperatures on our climate has become more apparent in recent years, and 2021 has been no exception. In Canada, we have witnessed record heat waves and never before seen temperatures, which are expected to further ascend over the next 30 years. These high temperatures and drought conditions have unfortunately resulted in one of the most devastating wildfire seasons in our history. This year’s wildfire season started earlier than usual and the flames have burned hotter than ever. Experts anticipate wildfire seasons like this year’s will be commonplace until at least 2050, with even harsher consequences in the coming seasons.
Early this summer, we had already seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of Canadian wildfires, when compared to the ten year average. Over 13,000 square miles have been burned, including entire communities scorched to the ground. Homes have been evacuated, habitats have been lost, and the residual smoke has resulted in some of the worst air quality in decades. The safety of Canadians has been put at risk since early June, and perhaps none more than those who are actually fighting these wildfires.
Ninety per cent of all forest fires are actively fought, so as the number of fires increase, so must the response teams. Suppression costs have increased as a result, as governments are now spending up to a billion dollars annually to combat the seemingly endless blaze. More people and more equipment are needed each year to help battle these flames, putting more people in harm’s way. Wildland firefighters are being pushed to their limits attempting to contain and eventually extinguish these infernos. These firefighters are continuously placing themselves in extremely dangerous situations to save our natural environment and human lives.
These heroes deserve the best, which is why we’ve worked tirelessly to produce high quality personal protective equipment (PPE) to serve their needs. As Canada’s largest manufacturer of wildland fire PPE, we have a responsibility to produce and supply safety gear in a timely and efficient manner. We have experience supplying nearly every Canadian industry with flame-resistant (FR) clothing, specializing in the development of highly technical flame-resistant fabrics. Our expertise and agility in textile manufacturing has helped us to transition with the times, and contribute our skillset to those most in need of high quality safety gear, including the growing response units responsible for controlling wildfires.
One need that had gone unaddressed for far too long, were wildfire-specific safety garments designed for women. Women who had pursued this line of work and put their lives on the line for the well-being of others, were being given unisex styles. These garments are often loose and ill-fitting on a woman’s body, failing to provide the proper protection they require and deserve. The number of women fighting wildfires is anticipated to increase as the flames cover larger areas and burn at greater temperatures. Guaranteeing a reliable and quality supply of proper fitting FR clothing for these women is a necessary component in the suppression of these horrific events.
The effects of a warming atmosphere will become more entrenched in our climatic patterns, and wildfires will surely become a staple in our summer months. Government bodies must recognize this trend and identify the elements required to respond effectively. Canadian-made personal protective equipment is the only way to ensure the timely and reliable delivery of absolutely essential items to absolutely essential workers. Manufacturing protective garments in Canada, in compliance with Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) standards, our FR clothing is fully certified while eliminating the risk of unforeseen supply chain disturbances. In the last year, we witnessed unprecedented interruptions in supply chain and we now understand just how important a domestic source of essential products can be.
The reality of a changing climate and the conditions that will ensue, coupled with reoccurring challenges in supply chain, has made it more important than ever to support and invest in a Canadian source of wildland fire gear. Canadian firefighters work around the clock to keep us all safe, and we must do the same for them.