(TMU) — Firefighters from the United States are being deployed overseas for the first time since 2010 to assist in efforts to combat Australia’s out-of-control bushfires, which continue to rage after burning roughly 12.35 million acres (5 million hectares) of land.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the deployment of firefighters from across the U.S., has announced that some 100 firefighters have been sent to Australia over the last four weeks to assist in efforts to stamp out the over 100 fires raging in the states of New South Wales (NSW) and over 40 fires in Victoria.
An additional 50 to 60 firefighters will also be dispatched to Australia on Monday. The Times also reports that among those firefighters 16 are from California, a state which has faced devastating blazes claiming thousands of acres, countless properties, and dozens of lives over the past few years.
For the first time since 2010, the federal government is sending U.S. firefighters — including some from California — to help combat Australia’s wildfires, which have burned about 12.35 million acres of land and killed at least 17 people https://t.co/Kp7X5ViIU6
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) January 2, 2020
In a news release last month, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Wildland Fire Director Jeff Rupert said:
“This exchange demonstrates the value of our arrangement for mutual wildland fire support with Australia. It’s a valuable tool for both countries as we face increasingly complex and challenging fires.
The interagency team of professionals will share expertise from managing wildland fire under a variety of locations and conditions in the U.S., many of which are similar to what they’ll encounter in Australia.”
The firefighters being dispatched have been trained in unique techniques that apply to distinct situations and diverse terrains such as wildland, urban settings, and the wildland–urban interface. Upon arrival to Australia, the firefighters will receive “orientation and operational training prior to going out on the line,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The operation has been made possible by an agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior and Emergency Management Australia.
The melting point of the aluminum rims on your car is 1,220°F (660°C). pic.twitter.com/kAEhVcNJbv
— Strictly Vanguard ☭ (@christoq) January 2, 2020
National Interagency Fire Center public affairs officer Kari Cobb said:
“It works really well because Australia has a different fire season than we do in the United States.”
In August 2018, Australia and New Zealand dispatched about 140 firefighters to the U.S. for nearly 30 days, where they were stationed in Northern California, Washington, and Oregon.
A group of about 36 Canadians is also being dispatched to Australia for the very first time, duty officer Stephen Tulle of the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Center told CBC.
The bushfires devastating Australia have been raging since September, laying waste to wildlife and private property alike while experts warn that nearly half a billion animals, including 8,000 koalas, have been killed by the fires. About 1,400 homes have been destroyed while thousands of others are continuing to be displaced as extreme wind and heat stokes the bushfire crisis.
Regions devastated by the fires include the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area and portions of the Gondwana rainforests, the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world which has existed since the time of dinosaurs.
At least 17 people have died and many remain unaccounted for since the fires began.
On Monday, firefighter Samuel McPaul was killed in a “truly horrific” incident when extreme weather produced by the fire lifted his 12-ton fire truck into the air and dumped it on its roof. Two other firefighters on the scene are being treated for serious burns due to the “freakish” weather incident.
R-F-S says a “fire tornado” picked up a 10-tonne fire truck, inverted it, and dropped it on its roof killing Samuel McPaul. Veteran firefighters say they “can’t believe what they saw”. He leaves behind his pregnant wife. He’s the third volunteer to die #AustralianFires #NSWfires pic.twitter.com/RsUvXyjkaM
— Selby Stewart (@Selby_Cameron) December 30, 2019
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said:
“It was a fire tornado or a collapsed pyro convective column that had formed above the main fire front. That resulted in cyclonic winds that moved across the fireground.”
The Australian government headed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison has faced rising anger amid the crisis. On Thursday, locals expressed fury toward Morrison and humiliated him as they drove him from a meet-and-greet in the fire-ravaged NSW town of Cobargo. Residents cursed the beleaguered head of state, telling him to “piss off” and shouting “you’re not welcome you fuckwit.”
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