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Wildfire firefighter dies in NWT; 2nd Canadian firefighter death in a week

By Charlie Carey and The Canadian Press

A firefighter has died while battling a wildfire near his home community in the Northwest Territories — the second Canadian wildfire firefighter death in a week.

The territorial government issued a statement saying the firefighter from Fort Liard died from an injury sustained while battling a nearby blaze on Saturday afternoon.

Wildfire Information Officer Jessica Davey-Quantick says the firefighter was involved in combatting a fire that started July 7 in the Fort Liard District and is currently about 11 kilometres southwest of the town.

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She says no other information about the firefighter will be provided until family members have been notified.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter Sunday, saying that he’s “incredibly saddened by the news from the Northwest Territories, that another firefighter has lost their life battling wildfires.”

“To their family, their friends, and those they were heroically serving alongside: Canadians are keeping you in our thoughts. We’re here for you,” he said.

Federal Minister for Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair shared his condolences on social media Sunday.

“We’re mourning the loss of a second firefighter who was injured while protecting his community. This will be felt by the firefighting community in the Northwest Territories, and across Canada.”

“We must never forget the service and sacrifice of our first responders,” Blair said.

His death follows that of a British Columbian firefighter — Devyn Gale died Thursday after police say she was killed by a falling tree near Revelstoke, B.C.

RCMP have said the 19-year-old’s team lost contact with her before finding her.

In a statement Friday morning, the Revelstoke RCMP said officers were called in around 3:30 p.m. after being notified of a “workplace fatality.” Police say the RCMP learned that the young adult was working alongside a team assigned to clearing brush within the area where a small fire had started.

The firefighter was airlifted to the Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke but later died of her injuries, officials added.

Gale was later identified as the victim by her brother, who described Devyn as a “careful, considerate, hardworking” individual who was “smarter and better at what she did than she gave herself credit for.”

The BC Wildfire Service made an official statement Sunday, three days after Gale’s death.

“She was a trusted colleague, a loving friend, a beloved sibling and a cherished daughter,” it said.

“She personified the iconic Reds and Blues of wildland firefighting in British Columbia: she was bravery, grit, hard work, determination, leadership and selflessness. She was one of us. She was the heart of us.”

The service says as it comes to reckon with the devastating tragedy, it knows there is more work to do.

“It is hard to comprehend how we move forward after such a loss, but we find the strength to do so through Devyn’s extraordinary example, in her memory and her name,” it said.

The deaths come as Canada’s record-breaking wildfire season has now seen 100,000 square kilometres of land scorched as blazes continue to burn out of control across the entire country.

The total area burned is roughly the size of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie and Lake Michigan combined.

Canada surpassed the record set in 1989 for total area burned in one season on June 27 when the figure totalled 76,000 square kilometres, and communities have faced evacuation orders, heat warnings and poor air quality for months.

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