In Rare Move, US Sends Firefighters to Australia

Mass evacuations underway as danger rises
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 3, 2020 5:08 AM CST
In Rare Move, US Sends Firefighters to Australia
In this photo released and taken Jan. 2, 2020, by the Australian Department of Defense, the HMAS Choules sails off the coast of Mallacoota, Victoria to supply support to people cut off by bush fires.   (Australian Department of Defense via AP)

In 2018, around 140 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand helped fight wildfires in California and other western states. With wildfires now raging in Australia, the help is being repaid. Around 100 American firefighters have been sent to Australia over the last four weeks and at least 50 more will be dispatched on Monday, the Los Angeles Times reports. This is the first time the US government has sent firefighters to Australia since 2010. Canada, for the first time, has also sent dozens of firefighters Down Under. National Interagency Fire Center public affairs officer Kari Cobbs say the US firefighters who volunteered for the assignment will earn their normal salary while overseas. An agreement between the US and Australia to share fire resources "works really well because Australia has a different fire season than we do," Cobb says.

But that agreement may not work well for much longer, the Wall Street Journal reports. Fire seasons worldwide are beginning to overlap, and companies that lease firefighting equipment worldwide are now dealing with competing requests from different parts of the world at the same time. "Our whole paradigm of progressive fire seasons is out the window," says former New South Wales Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins. For now, Australia needs all the help it can get: This is the country's worst wildfire season on record and more than 200 fires are still burning, the AP reports. With soaring temperatures expected to make the situation even worse on Saturday, mass evacuations are underway and states of emergency have been declared in New South Wales and Victoria. (The fires have killed at least 19 people and an estimated 500 million animals.)

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