Aussie crews going to battle US blazes

Aussie crews going to battle US blazes

12 July 2008

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Australia –A contingent of Australian and New Zealand firefighters is preparing to head for the United States to help battle devastating forest fires.

More than 60 blazes are ravaging the US, with about 1.2 million hectares falling victim to fire this year – almost the yearly average in just six months.

NSW emergency services minister Nathan Rees on Saturday formally farewelled 10 emergency personnel, including five firefighters and five national parks and forest workers.

They are among a team of 44 Australians and New Zealanders scheduled to leave for California this weekend.

“The US National Interagency Fire Centre formally requested the assistance the Iemma government had no hesitation in agreeing to the request,” Mr Rees said.

The team will relieve local fire crews in remote areas, and provide expert advice on tactics and strategy.

Australian firefighters were last deployed to the US in 2006, when they were responsible for coordinating thousands of fire personnel.

NSW heads the contingent with 10 personnel, followed by Victoria’s nine, Western Australia’s eight, the ACT’s four, Tasmania’s three, one from South Australia and nine from New Zealand.

California is the worst-hit area, with 24 bushfires, while a further four are raging in the neighbouring desert state of Arizona.

One person was found dead overnight inside a burned-out house after a wind-fuelled wildfire swept through a rural community in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills.

Investigators believe the person died in the fire in the town of Concow, but an autopsy will be needed to confirm the cause of death.

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