U.S. sends firefighters to Australia to help fight blazes

Aircraft dropping red substance on fire (© Noah Berger/AP Images)
A U.S. company has sent to Australia a DC-10 air tanker like this one dropping fire retardant in California in November. (© Noah Berger/AP Images)

The U.S. is sending more than 150 firefighters and wildfire specialists to Australia to fight the ongoing wildfires that are devastating the Queensland and New South Wales regions.

“We face many of the same firefighting challenges in each country. We’ve utilized their expertise in the past and welcome the opportunity to reciprocate,” U.S. Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza said in a statement.

This is the first time since 2010 that the United States has sent firefighters to Australia, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, which coordinates the work of nine U.S. agencies to manage wildfires. The fire personnel come from the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service.

Private U.S. companies also are helping. A wide-body DC-10 air tanker jet was sent to the area from 10 Tanker, a private contracting company headquartered in New Mexico. It is one of several international companies that work around the world providing aerial firefighting support to the more than 2,000 Australian firefighters working to contain the fires.

“The fire and rescue services of Queensland and New South Wales have faced exceptional danger and challenges over the last week, and more is yet to come,” U.S. Ambassador to Australia Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr. said in a statement. “Our fire services’ cooperation extends back decades and is part of the long U.S.-Australian friendship and alliance.”

People looking at burning trees at night (© Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
Australian firefighters monitor the situation in Gippsland, Australia, on January 2. (© Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)