June 27, 2023: In a significant development, Canada and the United States have strengthened their collaboration to combat wildfires by replacing their previous ad hoc approach with a formal agreement. The new agreement aims to streamline the sharing of resources and expertise between the two countries, ensuring a more efficient response to forest fires that cross the border.
Canada has been grappling with an unprecedented fire season, with over 63,000 square kilometers of land already consumed by flames this year. Thousands of international firefighters from nine countries, including over 1,500 American firefighters, have been deployed to assist Canada in firefighting efforts to address this urgent challenge.
However, both countries recognized that their existing agreements for sharing fire resources needed to be updated and more effective. To address this, Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson and U.S. Ambassador David Cohen signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing a clear framework for requesting and deploying resources to fight wildfires.
The MOU covers the sharing of firefighting resources and emphasizes cooperation on technology, training, and research, considering the growing threat of wildfires due to climate change. By formalizing this agreement, both countries can enhance coordination with their respective provincial and territorial partners, ensuring the availability of adequate firefighting resources.
Key to the agreement is the inclusion of a comprehensive list of organizations involved in the cooperation. This list encompasses the relevant departments or organizations responsible for wildfire management in each province and multiple national departments such as the U.S. National Park Service, Parks Canada, the Canadian Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. This comprehensive list demonstrates a shared commitment and willingness to assist each other during times of crisis.
While the United States benefits from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster response, Canada lacks a national agency with a similar mandate. Although the agreement does not directly address this issue, it represents a significant step toward fostering a structured and coordinated approach to firefighting efforts in Canada, akin to FEMA’s role in the United States.
The memorandum of understanding between Canada and the United States is a testament to their joint commitment to address the increasing challenges of wildfires. By establishing a formalized framework and enhancing cross-border cooperation, both countries can better protect their communities and natural resources from the devastating impacts of fires. This agreement sets the stage for improved information sharing, timely deployment of resources, and coordinated responses, ultimately bolstering their collective resilience against the growing threat of wildfires.