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Russian offer to send water bombers to fight Fort McMurray fire in limbo

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May 8, 2016



Russian offer to send water bombers to fight Fort McMurray fire in limbo

Ottawa hasn't responded to the Kremlin's offer to help 'Canadian partners' battle Alberta blaze




APTOPIX Canada Wildfire

A water bomber drops water on a nearby wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta., on Friday, May. Russia has offered to send in extra water bombers, but Ottawa has not yet responded. (Jason Franson/Canadian Press)



The Trudeau government has yet to respond to an offer by Russia to dispatch massive water bombers and fire fighting specialists to battle the growing inferno around Fort McMurray, Alta.

The proposal was made late last week by Vladimir Puchkov, the Russian minister of emergency measures.

A spokesman for Russia's embassy in Ottawa, Kirill Kalinin, said Sunday that they continue to stand "ready to help our Canadian partners to fight the ongoing wildfires in Alberta."

The offer involves sending converted Ilyushin Il-76 transport planes — the kind occasionally leased by the Canadian military — that can dump as much as "42 tons of fire retardant into fire spots," according to a statement on the web site of Russia's Civil Defence, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters.

In addition, Moscow said it has "rescuers and specialists with necessary equipment" ready to help on the ground, if need be.

Diplomatic chill 

There has been a diplomatic chill between Canada and Russia since Moscow's annexation of Crimea in the spring of 2014, but since the election the Liberal government has said it wanted a constructive relationship with President Vladimir Putin's government.

Speaking on CTV's Question Period on Sunday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the fire continues to grow. But he made no mention of the Russian overture — or any other potential pitch of international assistance.

"It's big. It's out of control and the end is not in sight," Goodale told the news program.