Mission Fire Chief Larry Watkinson (right) and Captain Norm MacLeod along with more than a dozen Metro Vancouver firefighters are part of Canada's response to the government of Nepal's request for international assistance.

Mission firefighters help search for survivors in Nepal

Mission Fire Chief Larry Watkinson and Captain Norm MacLeod have joined more than a dozen other firefighters as part of Canada's response.

Two Mission firefighters are on their way to Nepal to help searchers locate missing people after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated the region Saturday.

Mission Fire Chief Larry Watkinson and Captain Norm MacLeod along with more than a dozen Metro Vancouver firefighters are part of Canada’s response to the government of Nepal’s request for international assistance.

Watkinson and MacLeod will be travelling with their highly trained dogs to search for survivors.

“These are very, very special dogs,” explained Mission Mayor Randy Hawes. “There are only eight of these dogs in B.C., and two of them are in Mission.”

According to Hawes, when the dogs put on their working vests, they “zero in on finding live people.” When someone is located the dog will scratch and bark until the person is rescued.

If someone who is deceased is found, the dog will lie down and cry.

They will help determine where diggers should be concentrating, said Hawes. He added the K9s are excited every time they are asked to work, but the job is psychologically hard on them as well as their human handlers.

“They work for an hour, then have to rest.”

Hawes, along with the rest of Mission council, gave their approval for the trip this past weekend after Watkinson presented them with the information about the service the dogs could provide.

“It took about two seconds for us to say ‘go, but be safe’,” said Hawes. “Aftershocks are still happening there.”

Despite the danger, Hawes felt it was a mission that couldn’t be turned down. “If we ever have an earthquake like that, we would like help too. Because we can help, we should.”

A return date for the firefighters has not yet been determined.

Mission’s safety will not be compromised with the absence of its fire chief and a captain, said Hawes. “We have several people working in the assistant chief position, and we have very experienced firemen. It will not be a problem.”

On April 25, a large earthquake hit Nepal, close to its capital Kathmandu. Canada is committing $5 million in humanitarian assistance to help the people affected.