HELENA — Shortly after returning from a three-week assignment in Alberta, the Helena Hotshots will head back to Canada to assist with firefighting efforts, but this time they will head to Quebec.
On Tuesday, the crew will begin its journey to Val-d'Or to help out under an international agreement between Canada and the United States that allows firefighters to travel to help out in either direction at the request of each country.
“Wildland fire is sort of an international language. You know, there's only so many ways you could put a fire out. They have a different process and a different approach at times versus the [U.S.] and they're very safety conscious, which I appreciate being someone that's in charge of 20 folks," said Tighe Stoyanoff.
While wildland fire may be an international language, the Helena Hotshots noted there are some differences in terminology when it comes to different types of gear.
“Hose rolls after you've deployed it, they call it a melon versus a butterfly. It's a little bit different technique. If you have to use a hose clamp up there, it's a strangler. Instead of hardware for hoses, jewelry. Instead of a fire line, you have a guard or dozer guard for dozer line,” said Jake Jones.
On their most recent assignment, the Helena Hotshots were in Alberta helping out with fires and upon returning home received a one-week leave as opposed to their traditional three days.
"There was a lot of smoke. Our first week there, we were doing what we call a wildland-urban interface, and there were quite a few houses that had caught on fire and we — it was also inverted. So there was a lot of smoke that you were breathing at night," said Stoyanoff. "Quite a few of us got sick. So, that was just a little bit of extra time to get back on our feet again."
Currently, a little over 14,290 square miles of Canadian landscape has burned since the start of 2023, the size of four Yellowstone National Parks put together, and there are over four-hundred wildfires burning right now. Canadian federal agency, Natural Resources Canada is forecasting above-normal fire activity across most of the country through September.
As a result, the Helena Hotshots see it as a great opportunity to help out where they can.
"Unfortunate for them that they have such a dramatic start to their fire season. But luckily for them, we're having a slower start down here and we've been able to, we being the United States, has been able to kick a bunch of resources up there to help out and I think that's pretty awesome to be able to help your neighbors out when you can,” said Charlie Palermo.