The Australian and New Zealand firefighters who arrived in the U.S. last weekend to help fight the wildfires spreading throughout the country have been deployed to blazes in Northern California and Oregon, the National Interagency Fire Center said Monday.
Fifty-three of the nearly 150 specialists who were requested by U.S. officials last week arrived at the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center in Redding on Monday, NIFC spokeswoman Carrie Bilbao said, while the remaining firefighters were sent to Redmond, Ore.
About two-thirds of the international reinforcements in Redding were sent to the Mendocino Complex Fires, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kerry Greene said, and the remaining third stayed nearby to fight the Carr Fire. They’ll be in the area for up to 30 days, she said.
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The group in California includes 10 task force leaders, four structure protection specialists, six safety officers, four helicopter managers, two heavy equipment bosses, 15 division supervisors, 10 crew bosses and two liaison officers, Bilbao said. All of those positions were ones that U.S. fire officials were struggling to fill, she added.
Before arriving at the fires, the Aussies and Kiwis went through a brief training period at the NIFC headquarters in Boise, Bilbao said.
“They went through their fire shelter training because they don’t use them in Australia and New Zealand,” she said. “A lot of (their firefighting is) similar to what we do here, but basically terminology and how things are run, they practiced deployment, got their gear (and) took off this morning.”