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.
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.
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.