Australia/USA — Firefighters from Australia and New Zealand are on their way to the United States to battle out-of-control bushfires in California.
The party of 44, mainly from Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and West Australia, were farewelled by their families in Melbourne about 8am (AEST) Sunday as they left for Idaho for a one-day induction before deployment to northern California.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) Victorian duty officer John Lloyd said the bushfire season had arrived one month early with hundreds of fires burning in California, Washington, Idaho, Montano and the Rockies.
“They will experience just about everything nature can throw at you – meeting bears, firefighting on very steep elevations, steeper than in Australia,” Mr Lloyd said.
Mr Lloyd said the crew would be required to assist for two fortnight-long periods of firefighting before they are sent home.
It is the fifth deployment of firefighters Australia has sent to the US to assist with bushfires.
The last was in 2006.
DSE chief fire officer Ewan Waller said none of the firefighters had fought fires in the US before, but all were very experienced forest firefighters skilled in aircraft firefighting and working with bulldozers.
“We try and send some of the young leaders – they’re the next generation,” Mr Waller said.
“They were quite excited – some mentioned butterflies.”
A second crew will travel from Australia to the US in two weeks.