Californian Firefighters Heading To Australia To Help Fight Bushfires
Veteran Californian firefighters are heading to Australia to help tackle the devastating bushfires that continue to rage across the country.
At least 24 people have died in the fires since they began in September, with more than 100 fires continuing to burn across the states of New South Wales and Victoria alone.
The Angeles National Forest crew will deploy from Los Angeles on Monday, January 6, the US Forest Service has reported, with the team being the first US ground crew actively involved in battling the blazes.
The team of 20 will dig fire breaks, start backfires with drip torch cans in an attempt to influence the behaviour of the main fires, and hike miles in rough terrain to help their Australian allies.
Australia and New Zealand have been sending firefighters to the United States for more than 15 years, with fire technician Jonathan Merager saying, as per CNN: ‘I’m looking forward to the opportunity to reciprocate to our Australian brothers and sisters for the same assistance they’ve given us for many years.’
The last time US firefighters worked in Australia was 2010, a stark contrast to the latter’s efforts as 138 Australian firefighters travelled to America in August last year, according to a federal spokesperson.
The Angeles crew is reportedly unique in its infantry-like capabilities, with the Forest Service saying the hand-picked 20-person unit includes full-time firefighters with crew boss experience.
Robert Garcia, Angeles National Forest Chief, said:
They work on engine crews, hot-shot crews, aviation helicopters crews, and they often work in remote places, independently with little support.
They are used to travelling, breaking up into small squads, doing initial attack… meaning attacking fires early before they become a large fire.
Garcia, who is not going to Australia, said the unit is made up of firefighters from several stations in the mountains over Los Angeles. Their deployment is expected to last between 30 and 45 days.
Jonathan Merager, an 18-year Forest Service veteran, said Australians will provide much of the equipment – such as tools for digging fire lines and drip torch cans for setting backfires.
I’ve talked to local firefighters on the ground in Australia. They take safety, firefighting in the forest as seriously as we do. And that’s encouraging.
Authorities had warned conditions would only worsen over the weekend, with the Bureau of Meteorology saying conditions would deteriorate rapidly as strong winds and smoke plumes from the fires trigger dry lightning storms and fire tornadoes.
Although conditions have eased slightly in both Victoria and New South Wales since then, with temperatures dropping and winds settling, authorities in both states have warned the danger is far from over.
The fires are expected to burn for weeks, putting lives and property in danger, and temperatures are forecast to reach the 40°C’s again on Friday.
Our thoughts are with those affected by these devastating fires.
You can donate money to the NSW Rural Fire Service and the Brigades Donations Fund here.
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