Australia — Facing the worst bushfire crisis in its history, California will next week welcome a contingent of hardened firefighters from down under, determined to help out mates in strife.
Golden Square Country Fire Authority operations officer Mark Gilmore will be among 44 Australian and New Zealand firefighters setting out tomorrow, as Californias governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ramps up his plea for more national – and global – help.
It is the fifth time in the past eight years Australia and New Zealand have been called to the aid of their northern hemisphere counterparts. NSW heads the latest contingent with 10 firefighters, followed by Victorias nine, Western Australias eight, the ACTs four, Tasmanias three, one from South Australia and nine from New Zealand.
Australian and New Zealand firefighters were last deployed to the US in 2006, when they were responsible for co-ordinating thousands of frontline personnel, while Canadian, American and New Zealand firefighters have all been deployed here during savage bushfire events in recent years.
The down under contingent can expect to be away for up to five weeks and may find themselves in remote areas with only a tent for shelter as they hold down containment lines.
Mr Gilmore told The Advertiser he realised there was `a big job ahead for the local crews.
It was great to see them helping us out, and it will be great to return the helping hand, the Region 2 veteran of 30 years said yesterday.
The Advertiser will follow up Mr Gilmores departure tomorrow in Mondays edition.