United States is seeking firefighting help from Canada and Australia

Incident Management Teams arrive in Victoria, Australi
File photo of Incident Management Teams from the United States arriving in Victoria, Australia. Photo posted February 11, 2020 by Emergency Management Victoria.

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.

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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.

One thought on “United States is seeking firefighting help from Canada and Australia”

  1. As an older firefighter at 59 and as much as want to help fellow jurisdictions in need I will need to pass this year. In talking with all our older experienced staff at our base the appetite to do this is very low. It pains me to have admit to this as I’ve had a anywhere, anytime attitude for almost 40 fire seasons now but I can’t roll the dice on this one. It’s like asking someone to willingly walk into a mine field with Covid in the USA. Let’s all hope for Tanker 1 fellows, as it what ultimately makes the difference just like in did Down Under


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