Some firefighters return from Australia while others are deploying

Angeles National Forest crew returns after 30 days

Incident Management Teams arrive in Victoria, Australi
Incident Management Teams arrive in Victoria, Australia. Photo posted February 11, 2020 by Emergency Management Victoria.

Three more Incident Management Teams from the United States and Canada have deployed to Victoria, Australia. These teams will continue to support local crews in East Gippsland, positioned in the regional Incident Control Centres and out on the fire ground.

Incident Management Teams arrive in Victoria, Australi
Incident Management Teams arrive in Victoria, Australia. Photo posted February 11, 2020 by Emergency Management Victoria.

The 20-person hand crew that left January 7 from the Angeles National Forest (ANF) in Southern California to assist with the bushfires in Australia returned 30 days later on February 5.

20-person hand crew Angeles National Forest Australia
The 20-person hand crew from the Angeles National Forest returned from Australia February 5. USFS photo.

I admit, I am old-school about some issues related to firefighting. I could not help but notice a striking difference between the first photos of U.S. personnel en route down under, compared to the more recent groups. The early photos from December of the personnel from scattered locations around the Western U.S. looked like they could have been on their day off on the way to McDonalds. But beginning in January the photos began to show what was obviously professionals on the way to an important assignment. As they walked, wearing their uniforms, through the airport in Australia other travelers in the airport spontaneously applauded. Very different from the early groups wearing sneakers, jeans, and a wide variety of t-shirts in assorted colors.

I mentioned to Robert Garcia, the Fire Chief for the ANF, the difference in the appearance of the various groups of firefighters when they were traveling. He said:

We honestly believe that how we show up is a key part of professionalism and as such, their duty. Despite many changes, we are trying our best to hold to the professional core values of duty, respect, and integrity.

We insisted that they all depart and arrive in the FS uniform and although they are represented by all 5 ANF IHC crews, ANF Engine crews, prevention, and aviation, they all wore the USFS, Angeles NF Nomex and T-shirt.

Here is a link to more information about the crews from the U.S. working in Australia. The article includes a couple of videos.

Below are photos of the ANF firefighters in more casual attire as they were working in Victoria, but still wearing the ANF t-shirts.

20-person hand crew Angeles National Forest Australia
USFS firefighters from the Angeles NF pose with firefighters from Victoria, Australia. USFS photo.
20-person hand crew Angeles National Forest Australia
USFS firefighters from the Angeles NF in Victoria, Australia. USFS photo. USFS photo.

20-person hand crew Angeles National Forest Australia

20-person hand crew Angeles National Forest Australia
USFS firefighters from the Angeles NF pose with firefighters from Victoria, Australia. USFS photo.

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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. Google+

5 thoughts on “Some firefighters return from Australia while others are deploying”

  1. Bill, are any of the Angeles crews from the Texas Canyon Got shots? My old crew from many,many years ago.

    Thanks, and hats(hard) off to you and your crew.

  2. The Aussies always show up here in the US looking professional, as do the Canadians. It’s always good to see a sense of social intelligence and situational awareness right out of the gate during these international assignments.
    It’s important for everyone assigned internationally to understand that there is a lot more going on here than emergency response. Our presence is a form of diplomacy.
    Take pride in your profession and your nation.

  3. Hey Bill,

    I whole-hardheartedly agree with the leadership of the ANF. Everyone looks the same.

    Here’s why

    You get 10 secs to get 1 minute to get 10 minutes to get 1 hour.
    If you cannot sell yourself in how you present (or represent) in this day and age, you will lose the opportunity to sell your strengths. If you look like crap, and they notice in the first 10 seconds when you walk thru the door, dont be surprised when they are unwilling to give more then a minute more of their time.

    Today’s society is fast-paced and shows little mercy, so to speak. I know and understand it may not sound fair or that is seems judgmental, but look at society as a whole and you will see what I am talking about.

    So again, kudos to those who have worn a uniform and those that have represented the US in a image that demonstrates our professionalism.

    Changing a culture can be hard, but it can be worth it if done in a manner that demonstrates RDI.

    1. Using the ANF as a comparison to other groups that head down really is unfair. The ANF had the luxury of sending an entire group from one forest, one agency, where all the other groups had a mixed bag, from mixed agencies. I know the group I went with, everyone had a district, or forest polo shirt during travel status, with clean presentable business casual wear for their 26+ hrs of travel. But of course we had USFS, BLM, BIA, FWS, NPS all traveling together. Insinuating that the other groups take less pride, or care in what they do or where they come from is a little insulting.

      One could nit-pick appearances, such as the ANF group refurbing a chainsaw without even the most basic PPE being worn while sharpening a saw, all while on national media sites.

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