U.S. sends more firefighters to help battle Australia brush fires

Posted at 3:40 PM, Jan 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-08 19:26:09-05

BOISE, Idaho — Rain continues to fall in some parts of Australia, giving firefighters at least a little help in battling the worst bushfires the country has seen in decades.

"We have actually been exchanging fire personnel with Australia and New Zealand for more than 15 years so this isn’t an uncommon thing but Australia hasn’t really experienced a fire season like this in a number of years," said Jessica Gardetto, a spokesperson for the National Interagency Fire Center.

At last count, at least three people have died, around 2,000 homes have been destroyed, and thousands of animals have been killed. Right now, there are about 160 firefighters from the United States helping to battle those fires, 21 of whom are from Idaho.

The first group went over back in December, and soon they'll be returning home as they rotate out with another group made up of about 100 firefighters from all over the country. The group of 100 is set to head out next week.

"Our firefighters are doing all different types of assignments over there everything from running a fire engine to digging fire line to managing aircraft and integrating closely with the Australian fire authorities," Gardetto said.

NIFC officials say if the conditions in Australia don't improve, even more U.S. firefighters could be sent to help.

"The Australian government is reimbursing the United States for the cost of sending firefighters to that country we’re just happy that we’re able to come out there and help," Gardetto said.