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Group of NIFC wildfire personnel return from Australia

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jan 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-15 19:12:24-05

BOISE — Australia has seen some of the worst wildfires in decades. The first of a group of American wildland fire personnel sent by the National Interagency Fire Center is back. They were deployed in early December.

John Noneman was part of that group. He says the first few days were a challenge.

"A lot of fuel and a lot of homes built right inside of it, so it's quite a challenge," said Noneman.

Jessica Gardetto, spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center, says the U.S. and Australia have had a long-standing relationship.

"The countries experience very similar activity. Our fire seasons are opposite of each other usually, so that works out in that we can trade wildfire personnel, and we've had this agreement with them since 2000, so for about twenty years, we've been exchanging wildfire personnel," said Gardetto.

Noneman says he went to fires near New South Wales and Sydney.

"You know, your body, your clock, acclimating to the situation you're in, the different nomenclature that they use, the different fuels and then your different role, so you thought you came as one thing, and it turns out you had two or three extra hats," said Noneman.

He says seeing the devastation was hard, but he says he had to stay professional.

"There we had group moments where an incident controller, you know at least have a few moments to recognize that, but gosh you're so busy that you dive right back into to trying to do that, but you know you save it for a little bit later when you can think about it."