More firefighters from down under arrive in Idaho

More firefighters from down under arrive inIdaho

28 August 2006

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BOISE — It took them days to travel thousands of miles from their home to ours, but now crews from down under are in Idaho to help fight the fires now raging in the Gem State.

For weeks now, local wildland fire crews have been stretched thin as thousands of acres burn here in Idaho, as well as the rest of the nation.

To help the problem, an agreement was made between the U.S. and two other countries, now dozens of crews are here to help.

“Some of the pictures make us apprehensive of what’s here and what’s going on,” said Robert Hagan, Australian firefighter.

A few weeks ago 48 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand were brought to Idaho to help with the fires.

They are on mandatory breaks now and 42 others have come to replace them.

These wildland firefighters may look like the men and women in our forests right now, battling the Gem State’s biggest blazes.

Instead, they come from thousands of miles away and are training to use the fire shelters that could one day save their lives.

“The tent training is scary and we don’t have that technique in Australia,” said Hagan.

“Most of us were told, we were called up on Tuesday, so we had two days notice,” said Bill Ellis, New Zealand firefighter.

With only 48 hours to prepare, 42 men and women from Australia and New Zealand notified their bosses they’d be leaving for America, and then boarded planes for Idaho.

Over the next few weeks the firefighters from down under will join hundreds of others as they work to put out the flames that have taken over the state.

“The beauty of coming over is that we get to interact with the American firefighters and we learn heaps of new things,” said Hagan.

Known for fighting fires in the thick of the eucalyptus, the grass, and the shrubs — the steep terrain of the Idaho mountains will be a challenge for these crews.

“The fuel types are bigger and the terrain is steeper. We have hilly country in New Zealand, but nothing near as steep as we have here in America,” said Ellis.

But despite different terrain and the unfamiliarity of some equipment, this team is known for its safety techniques and ability to fight fire.

The men and women from Australia and New Zealand will supervise firefighters on foot and from the air.

They are scheduled to stay here for at least a month if the fire situation doesn’t change.


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