U.S. and Canada send firefighters to Australia

A total of 42 firefighters from North America will be assisting with the suppression of bushfires

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Canadian fire management personnel Australia
21 Canadian fire management personnel received a warm welcome at the Sydney airport December 5  from @NSWRFS, @AFACnews, and @canadadownunder. These personnel from Parks, ON, MB, SK, AB & BC, are expected to return to Canada in early January. CIFFC photo.

Australia has just moved into their summer, but firefighters in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria have been dealing with exceptionally large numbers of massive bushfires for weeks.

Canada and the United States are each sending 21 firefighters down under to assist their Australian brothers and sisters.

The U.S. personnel will  be representing the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service. The employees are coming from Alaska, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, Oregon, Hawaii, and Virginia.

The U.S. firefighters departed from the San Francisco International
Airport on Thursday, December 5. The Canadians arrived in Sydney December 5.

This is the first time Canadian firefighters have been deployed to Australia under the Exchange of Wildland Fire Management Resources Agreement.

The last fire assistance between the U.S and Australia was in August of 2018 when 138 Australian and New Zealand wildfire management personnel worked in the U.S. for almost 30 days to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in Northern California and the Northwest. The personnel from the Southern Hemisphere filled critical needs during the peak of the western fire season for mid-level fireline management, helicopter operations, and structure protection.

The last time the U.S sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

46 thoughts on “U.S. and Canada send firefighters to Australia”

  1. That sounds wonderful when we can lend a hand to each other in need of help with wildfires.

  2. Wonderful to be receiving international support … but surely they could send more?!
    It’s currently winter in the US and they’re sending less than a quarter the number that Australia and NZ sent them just last year despite a vastly larger population??!!

  3. what about sending military tanks into the fire areas? surely tanks could be equipped with fire suppression equipment? and tx to all these cooperative people working together !!

  4. Thank you. Can you please send more help we need so much more help please? our fire fighters are worn out and the fires just keep coming . We are losing so much ??

  5. I am so grateful for the 42 warriors who went to Australia to help. But OMG, a whole country only have 21 people who would go. Come on, They have sent 136 people to assist California fire. At least return the favor once in 10 years.

  6. It’s not that easy to get their visas etc … besides, who is responsible for paying them? (In the off- season they have to work to feed their families.) We have a very dear neighbor — one of those gallant and brave hotshots — and ALL he wants to do is go over to Australia to fight those fires. Each year he applies … so, there’s more to the “why” than just thinking we Americans are lazy and not caring for the Aussies in their terrible time of need.

  7. Okay,
    Little common sense can go a long way.
    If you actually READ the story, including the picture description(s), you’ll glean these are “management personnel”. The back and forth help is also more of a, let’s-learn-from-one-another, than it is, here’s-a-ton-of-labor. The labor is already in place on both sides.

  8. I know there must be more to the why, but they sent 138 unpaid firefighters in 2018 to us, as usual it boils down to sluggish government.

  9. They helped us here in California in 2017, 2018, and now they are faced with incredible odds. The US should match man for man in their hour of need. 50 states and only 21 firefighters are sent? That is not very neighborly. They sent 138. We can certainly match that for them.

  10. Seems to me one thing we could do, is send air tankers and helicopters, to augment Australia’s airborne firefighting forces. Fire engines and brush trucks could be airlifted in by the military. We can’t just sit by and worry. We have to act. Australia is much more than an ally — it is an old and close friend, in fair times and bad times.

  11. visas are not problem in emergencies particularly when those involved are psrt of an international agreement
    21 sent to Aus – 138 from Aus to US does not seem a fair balance.

  12. I’m fairly confident that in emergency situations, red tape is done away with.
    When the tanker train derailed in Lac Megantic, Quebec, setting off a firestorm which engulfed the town, fire trucks from Maine were waved right through the border crossing, no questions asked.

  13. Only 21 firefighters from the US? Does anyone realize what is going on in Australia right now? Where are the heavy tanker aircraft the country desperately needs? They sent a helluva lot more people up here when we needed them and we send a measly 21? 600 million animals have been killed and I’ll wager the Koala will be close to extinction after this is ever over. Besides that, their food source is practically wiped out and survival post-fire will be close to impossible in most areas they inhabit. This is a major tragedy and it seems like the US media is ignoring the gravity of the situation, rather cover an idiot than what really matters. I wonder if the climate change deniers are still sticking to their guns over what clearly is a climate change cause. I just saw a picture of a little Koala sitting next to a firefighter, both apparently staring at a huge fire bloom of Eucalyptus trees, the main food staple for Koalas. It was a sad sight indeed.

  14. what I have been thinking , the army has only now been sent to help, what a disaster .

  15. I agree 100% with John Shutz. Bravo Mr Shutz.
    21 from the US is the best we can do ?????? This is not an attack on our fire fighters. They are brave, they are strong, they are fearless. And they are not making this decision. So who is? Who is the one that can get this rolling.
    21 firefighters compared to the 138 fire fighters from Australia and New Zealand. Does any one know the difference in population between the whole of Australia and New Zealand and just California? Australia 25.56 million, New Zealand 4.78 and California 39.56………totally disproportionate.
    Where were the Australian Military during the Korean War? In Korea. Where were they during the Vietnam War? In Vietnam. Afghanistan? Whether it’s attached to a UN mission or not, Australia and New Zealand are always there to assist. So where is the US NOW???
    The droughts have devastated this beautiful country and its wild life population. They need real help not 1.2 minutes of coverage, if that, on the nightly news.
    There are vacationers stranded on a beach because the only way out is via the water in a bay that is fighting the difficulty of poor visibility, and the roads can not be traveled on because of downed trees, that wont be cleared for a week and spot fires.
    People are trying to evacuate from their homes or holiday rentals, but gas pumps and ATMs dont work because there is no power.
    There are Koalas who are too slow to get out of the way of fire front traveling faster than they can run. After that fire is put out, all their food supply will be gone, all their water supplies will be evaporated and tainted.
    There is all the wildlife that live underground, live in trees….. large, no, giant sections of the ecosystem are being destroyed. Wildfires are a natural part of the environment, but not on this scale. It could take up to 80 years for this level of catastrophic destruction, to heal the ecosystem.
    But right now, RIGHT NOW, Australia desperately needs help in getting the fires under control. And what can we can do? What can we do, is send more help to put out the fires. 21 is just not going to cut it America. So whoever is making the decisions, just please decide to do more.

  16. I am an Australian and am wondering the same, we are at crisis point as of today, with thousands stranded on beaches aftr being devastated. with the next two days going to hit hard again for us weather wise, we are very very worried.

  17. A message sent to The Australian Prime minister by an Australian. There was no reply! Again, thanks guys for all you are doing. Keep safe.

    Subject: Help for the firemen
    Comment: It is obvious you have never lived in the country or fought a wildfire, you ignorant man! I used to be a forester when I was a young man and have helped fight some vicious forest fires. Let me tell you, it is exhausting! The heat, the terror, the adrenaline, the constant watching and waiting when not spraying water or raking to bare earth. You have never experienced any of this, but in your ignorance say that volunteers WANT to be there! They are not there because they want to be, they are there from a sense of community obligation. They risk their lives to help their neighbours. They stay on the fire line until they can no longer stand. They drink tepid water, usually rank water out of a fire hose. They eat curling, stale sandwiches sitting on the step of their fire truck and wonder when they will ever get home to see their families again. Of course they need help, they need all the help they can get. THIS IS THE CLIMATE CHANGE YOU DENY IN ACTION! THIS IS THE LACK OF CONTROLLED BURNING WHICH HAS LET THE FUEL LOADS BUILD UP TO UNMANAGEABLE LEVELS! THIS IS GOVERNMENT INACTION AT ITS WORST. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE YOU DRESSED IN A FIREMAN’S RIG HOLDING A HIGH PRESSURE HOSE. YOU DISGUST ME!

  18. The problem in US is that California still has fires that are charged by Santa Anna winds and those come at this time of year. If they get worse people will have a fit and sadly the gov’t are chicken to send more. Sorry for this but I know of 150 men and women who are volunteer firefighters that went over from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.

  19. Completely agree. We should be sending thousands of firefighters and every piece of firefighting equipment we can spare. Australians have always been there for us and never asked for anything in return. We should be sending a flood of assistance, not a drop.

  20. This is dry season in Florida and we always have fires and in California with the Santa Anna’s in winter it’s the same. Summer is rainy. Since states make judgments to what to send, the northeast US and Northwest US should do more. Hope this dissipates soon and hope ,ore states send people soon

  21. Only 21. Only the US and Canada. Where is the empathy? I hope for everyone’s no one else ever has to walk in their shoes. Their country is on fire and most places able to give much more assistance are just looking away. Oh well, not my country. Or maybe all my facts are not up to date, I hope.

  22. The fires are out of control! As much as Australia appreciates 42 extra hands, yes please, to much more! Huge support services are required. Some areas are without food, water and power. Medical supplies, breathing apparatus, are required, childrens services, ANIMAL SERVICES, fuel is running low, and our resources are getting tired.
    Money/donations are great, but they take time to convert to neccessary items or services.
    Australia needs help. Serious help right now.

    Yes please, to military helicopters carrying litres of water and fire retardant. Yes please to heavy attillery to help clear roads, transport water, to push, carry, shove what needs moving.

    42 sets of hands equate to 42 more lives as risk.

    God Bless Australia ??

  23. John, both the US and Canada have sent many, many more than 21. They have been coming in stages since November. Bear in mind please, that whilst they understand fire, they don’t understand Australia and its bush. That has to be trained and they need to work alongside Aussies, which means needing to find space for them in vehicles, in Comms Centres and so forth. In addition, as the US, Canadian and Australian fire seasons all get longer and start earlier, your firies may have not had a break at all because the seasons are now overlapping. They are human, not machines. Trust me when I say this, we could not be more grateful for the Trans Pacific support, for the water bombers and the men and women on the ground. And we pay it back every year in your season.

  24. It us not that simple. They don’t just hop on a plane and turn up. The request is made from this end, by our CFA. They have to have visas for starters. Then they have to be to locally trained, accommodated, fed, transported and equipped. And, if they are professional firies someone has to pay them. Many of our fire fighters are unpaid volunteers who have full time jobs as something other than fighting fires. Professionals are on duty, except when on holidays. So either you expect your firies to use up all their leave, or you expect to be left short of firies. As I said, it is not simple. But it is very very gratefully received. Be kind about your firies. You will want them to be rested for your own fire season.

  25. The USA has sent a lot more and have been continuing to send more. This is older news you can follow who they send from “National Interagency Fire Center” twitter account.

  26. We need help big help. We us Aussies have always helped other countries in their time of need well our time is now. Our country is on fire please HELP PLEASE

  27. I’m from the US. The media is definitely covering the fires. And I’m horrified that my government hasn’t done more to help. They’re pretty much useless right now. I’m looking for an organization to donate to. Suggestions?

  28. Here are a couple of sites:
    To adopt wild koalas and other ways of helping the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in New South Wales, go to Koalahospital.org.au
    Cnet also has links for the Australian Firefighters.

  29. As a USFS Fire Management Officer, I deployed to Victoria with an Inter-agency team of 14 fire managers from around the US in 2010. I spent four weeks working with the Victoria Department of Sustainability & Environment and Country Fire Authority. Very impressive organizations in terms of professionalism, dedication, innovation and competence. They are very good at what they do. On the other hand, the volatility of the fuels and complex landscape they deal with are a challenge for the best of fire organizations.

  30. I agree. I was shocked to see such a low number considering Australia sent nearly 200 here to fight California fires.

  31. Yes, Mr. Shutz,
    it sounds extremely insane to send only “Twenty-one firefighters” from U.S.A. when the whole continent of Australia is burning. People can run to shelters for protection but animals don’t. I saw the video of the innocent little koala, it is heart-braking. I also saw a picture of a little to adolescent kangaroo standing in front of a wired fence. It seems the fence prevented him from running away from the fire. He was dead standing in front of the fence. I totally agree with your point of view. Australia declared ”state of disaster”.

  32. My husband is a Wildlands firefighter and would love to help but we don’t know who to contact to volunteer

  33. Where are the super tanker aircraft for slurry drops not going to Australia.
    If Australia whats to pay or not the USA can send down a DC10 tanker.

  34. We are 10 French experienced and trained firefighters who are eager to come and help 2 weeks in February, with our fire gears only. Since France is not going we are planning to come by our own means and at our own expense. If you know fire stations ready to host us (we can pay for our food, all we need is somewhere to sleep and wash) please make contact with us, we can help putting out fires, take shifts, do anything to help slowing those fires under your command.

  35. I agree,this needs to be fought like a war.i have been trying to make contact for my friend and myself to try and go down there.we are 100 percent trained up and experienced.i know we are not much but we are top fallers and we cut the oversize and hazardous trees.i have been researching this and did not realize how many trees and broken ground they have.some places a lot.we could be cutting firebreaks,hazzard trees along roads and houses to keep roads open and help save homes.i just cannot make the right contact yet.but what I see we would be a good help for them.


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