Aussie and NZ Firefighters Join California Wildfire Fight

138 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand flew in Saturday to assist exhausted crews battling wildfires in the US northwest. The biggest is the Carr Fire in Northern California, which has now killed seven people, including two firefighters, and prompted the evacuation of 37,000 from their homes.

The team spent the weekend at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, familiarizing themselves with local conditions, protocol, fire shelter deployment, and PPE, among others, and were shipped out Monday to NorCal and Oregon to fight the fires.

Dan Smith, the chair of the U.S.’s National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group, said, “Because of the current level of commitment and forecast, having fire management expertise from Australian and New Zealand with specialized experienced firefighters will be of tremendous help as we continue suppressing ongoing fires.”

Firefighters were last mobilized from Australia and New Zealand in 2015.  The last time U.S. fire personnel traveled to Australia was in 2010.

Only a lighter note, the firefighters from “down under” also have to get used to American terminology, eg a “snag” – which, in the US, is a tree that gets hung up. In Australia, a snag is a barbecue sausage.

The Aussies and Kiwis will be in the area for up to 30 days.