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Ontario sending personnel, equipment to N.W.T firefight

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Ontario is sending people and gear to help fight fires in the Northwest Territories, where flames are edging closer to the capital.

Yellowknife, home to about 22,000 people, is under an evacuation order, as are several other nearby communities. Half of the population in the Northwest Territories has now been displaced by encroaching fire.

Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry says 65 firefighters, command, and support staff are being dispatched in the coming days, with some arriving in Yellowknife Friday.

The province is also sending equipment, including hoses, pump kits and batteries to power radios.

Some personnel may be shifted to battle fires in British Columbia.

The union representing some fire rangers in Ontario says the province isn't helping as much as it could.

"Ontario forest fire workers are being deployed to assist in the Northwest Territories, but the support they're able to offer is extremely limited due to short staffing," OPSEU President J.P. Hornick said in a statement.

"Our members working at Aviation Forest Fires and Emergency Services (AFFES) want to be able to support other provinces fight wildfires, but program cuts and underfunding by the Ford government has led to a retention crisis that's left us short a third of crews."

Toronto-based charity GlobalMedic is also sending help with two tank and pump systems, a little bigger than a washing machine. The 1,000-litre units can be used to snuff out flames.

"Because it fits on the back of a pickup truck, and there's a lot of pickup trucks in Yellowknife, we're able to turn any one of those pickup trucks into a fire truck," GlobalMedic's Executive Director Rahul Singh said Friday.

Singh expects the first unit to be given to Yellowknife's fire chief Friday, the second on Saturday.

"If we don't get these guys more gear to defend that city, it's gonna be pretty catastrophic what happens there."

The Canadian Red Cross is supporting Yellowknife evacuees who have ended up in Alberta. In Edmonton, the charity is connecting people with shelter, pillows, blankets, and toiletries.

You can donate to the Red Cross' efforts at redcross.ca 

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