Australia/USA — Jurien Bay Department of Environment and Conservation officer Sam Hurd is headed to the United States with seven other Western Australian fire management specialists to help fight bushfires.
The fires have been raging in California for several weeks and the WA crew is part of a 44 strong Australia-New Zealand contingent that had been called on to provide relief to American fire crews.
The WA team comprises DEC officers Mr Hurd of Jurien Bay, Jeremy Chick of Kirup, John Carter of Busselton, Greg Simpson and Carl Cicchini of Manjimup and Steve Gunn of Mundaring.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority officer Steve McDonald from Geraldton and Forest Products Commission officer Ben Sawyer from Harvey will also join the crew.
Officers will serve in a variety of key management roles, including divisional commander, task force leader, helicopter manager and field liaison officer.
Emergency Services Minister John Kobelke said WA is known internationally for its fire management expertise and skills and has previously helped the US battle large fires.
This is the fifth deployment of ANZ fire leaders to the US since the first 50 strong contingent assisted with the US fires in 2000, he said.
Our local fire crews are experienced in these types of situations, particularly after last years fire season in WA, in which a bushfire emergency period was declared as hundreds of bushfires raged across the State.
The fact that the US can call on WA to assist during wildfires reflects the high standard of professionalism and ability of our fire crews.
Mr Kobelke said US fire authorities had also indicated that they might request further assistance from Australia and New Zealand in the next few weeks.
More than 300 fires are continuing to burn in California across more than 280,000 hectares.
Rising temperatures and lightning strikes have been forecast for next week.
The WA team will be based in California for the next five weeks and will work on two rotations of 14 days each, with two-day breaks in between.
Mr Kobelke said WA fire officers who had taken part in previous deployments in other jurisdictions had benefited from the experience.
Our fire managers have the opportunity to practise their skills in a major incident working with experienced fire fighters in other states and countries, and this enhances their skills when they return home and tackle fires here in WA, he said.