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Canada and Portugal forge firefighting alliance amid record wildfire season

This is the second wildfire MOU Canada has signed with a foreign country in two weeks.
A firefighter works near the Donnie Creek wildfire, the largest in B.C.'s recorded history.

Canada has signed a mutual aide agreement with Portugal as part of a long-term plan to help each other in the event of catastrophic wildfires.

The memorandum of understanding, announced Thursday, July 6, is the second Canada has signed in two weeks, and comes amid the country's worst wildfire season in its recorded history.

According to satellite data measuring burn area, wildfires have scorched more than 8.9 million hectares across Canada so far this year — nearly equivalent to torching the entire country of Portugal.

"In the face of the most severe wildfire season in history, our top priority will always be keeping Canadians safe,” said Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson in a written statement. 

“This arrangement with the Portuguese Republic will ensure effective cooperation on both sides of the Atlantic, advancing our joint efforts to protect livelihoods and communities from intense wildfires.”

The latest agreement sets out procedures so the two countries can exchange wildfire fighting resources and establishes a framework that encourages both countries to help each other.

This year, Portugal sent 140 firefighters to Canada as part of the first ever dispatch of European personnel to the country under the continent's Emergency Response Coordination Centre.

The latest agreement will make such exchanges easier, said Tiago Oliveira, who chairs the board of the Agency for Integrated Rural Fire Management of the Portuguese Republic. 

Canada’s Ministry of Natural Resources said Portugal is recognized internationally as a “leader in wildland fire management.”

“This arrangement, and other initiatives like it, show how international collaboration can help countries manage the increasing challenges of extreme weather events in the face of climate change,” the ministry said.

Canada has signed memorandums of understanding with six other countries: Australia, Costa Rica, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States.