The United State is reaching out to Canada and Australia, hoping to get more than 130 firefighters to assist with the battling the 93 uncontained wildfires in the country.
In spite of the travel difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group is “working on a request for 55 overhead wildland fire personnel from Australia and about four to five crews from Canada”, said Kari Cobb, an Acting Public Affairs Officer at the National Interagency Fire Center. In the United States, hand crews usually consist of 20 people.
If the Australian’s accept the assignment, they will be leaving a continent where the virus has been nearly controlled, to come to a country where the opposite is true.
The international assistance has worked in both directions. In July, 2008, 44 Australian and New Zealand firefighters came to the United States to assist with fires in California. The first deployment of firefighters from Australia to the U.S. was in 2000.
Although Australia is no stranger to wildfires, the 2019-2020 season was one of the worst fire seasons on record. Major bushfires began in June, 2019, and by September were stronger, more intense, and more frequent. The fire situation continued to worsen, and by November, Australia requested international assistance to suppress the thousands of fires on the landscape.
Over a span of four months, the United States responded to the request for firefighters by providing personnel from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, and National Park Service. In total, The U.S. deployed more than 200 USFS and DOI wildland fire staff to the Australian Bushfire response.