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Forest Service, DOI continue supporting Australian firefighting efforts

An aerial view of fires burning in Australia.
Fires continue to burn throughout Australia. This bird's-eye view was taken by aviation officer Sean Cox in early December. USDA Forest Service photo by Sean Cox.

WASHINGTON, DC—Wildfires continue to burn in Australia, and the USDA Forest Service and Department of the Interior are sending wildfire personnel to assist with ongoing suppression efforts. The U.S. has mutual aid agreements with Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Right now, there are 159 interagency personnel, including 87 from the USDA Forest Service helping with #bushfires in Australia. U.S. firefighters are filling critical wildfire and aviation management roles in New South Wales and Victoria.

 “Our thoughts and prayers, with our deepest condolences, are with the Australia firefighters and public who have lost their lives and homes,” said Shawna Legarza, director, Fire and Aviation Management. “We are proud to provide personnel from the United States and will continue to support Australia with the resources needed during this unprecedented fire situation.”

The U.S., Australia and New Zealand have been exchanging fire assistance for more than 15 years. The most recent exchange occurred in August 2018, when 138 Australian and New Zealand wildfire personnel were sent to the U.S. for almost 30 days to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in Northern California and the Northwest. The Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during the peak of the western fire season for mid-level fireline management, heavy equipment, helicopter operations and structure protection. The last time the U.S. sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group, comprised of federal and state wildland fire representatives, works with the National Interagency Coordination Center, which is based at the National Interagency Fire Center, to mobilize resources and distribute assistance requests across interagency partners. NIFC is the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting and is located in Boise, Idaho. It is comprised of eight different agencies and organizations, including the USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Fire Administration.

Check this page regularly for updates about agency resources committed to this firefighting effort.