WASHINGTON, D.C. — As wildfires, or bushfires, burn throughout Australia, the Forest Service and Department of the Interior continue to deploy wildfire personnel to assist with fire suppression efforts. The two departments have sent more than 200 firefighters since November 2019.
Shawna Legarza, director of Fire and Aviation Management, was interviewed by USDA radio last week, and she spoke about USDA Forest Service contributions to these deployment.
The Forest Service has had an ongoing relationship with Australia and New Zealand since the 1950s through joint efforts and coordination between the North American Forest Commission, Fire Management Working Group (U.S., Canada and Mexico) and the Forest Fire Management Group (Australia and New Zealand).
Bilateral study tours between the two countries began in 1951, but the first mobilization between the U.S. and Australia/New Zealand occurred in 2000 when 96 fire management personnel from Australia and New Zealand were deployed to the U.S. The first mobilization of U.S. fire management personnel to Australia was in January 2003.
The fire year began in Australia in late July. Fires began truly raging in September, demonstrating the effects of the country’s hottest and driest year on record. Over the last 20 years, drought and severe temperatures have significantly increased on the continent, resulting in larger megafires, more acres burned, extreme fire behavior and longer periods of burning.
The fires have affected approximately 40 million acres so far. The Forest Service sent support in the form of career fire personnel beginning in December. The agency will continue to provide support as long as needed.
You can listen to the full interview on USDA Radio.