Australian firefighters "happy to help" in Northwest University of Alaska, Fairbanks, firefighting students Casey Lasota, left, and Harold Stein work to cool hotspots left from a wildfire Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015, in Chelan, Wash. Firefighters across the West saw little relief over the weekend as wildfires raged in the drought-stricken region, but for those in Washington, other states will soon provide additional resources. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Australian firefighters "happy to help" in Northwest
Lexile

The mountainous conditions in the Pacific Northwest will be nothing new for dozens of firefighters from Australia and New Zealand. They have arrived to help battle the many blazes burning unchecked in the region.
 
"We are used to tall timber and steep territory," said Warren Heslip. He is a 47-year-old firefighter from Southland, New Zealand.
 
Heslip was among the 71 firefighters from the southern region who picked up equipment at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. Then they headed out to help a ground campaign led by firefighters from across the West and supported by U.S. soldiers.
 
The flames claimed the lives of three firefighters in Washington. The flames injured four others and burned 200 homes and also inspired an outpouring of volunteers. They were invited for the first time in Washington state history to help battle the blazes.
 
This summer's fire response across the West has been overcome by destructive blazes. The fires have torn through the tinder-dry region.
 
The biggest fire as of Aug. 24 was in Washington's Okanogan County. The county is on the Canadian border. A group of five fires raging out of control became the largest in state history. The fires burned more than 400 square miles. That is according to spokesman Rick Isaacson.
 
Lightning-sparked fires broke the state record. They exceeded the blazes that destroyed more than 300 homes in the same county last year.
 
"I'd like to set some different records," Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers said.
 
The U.S. is in the midst of one of its worst fire seasons on record. Some 11,600 square miles have been burned so far. It is only the sixth-worst going back to 1960. But it is the most acreage burned by this date in a decade. So the ranking is sure to rise.
 
So many fires are burning in Washington that managers are taking extreme measures. They called on help from abroad and 200 U.S. troops from a base in Tacoma were the first such use of active-duty soldiers in nine years.
 
Jim Whittington is a Bureau of Land Management spokesman in Portland, Oregon. He said military assets cannot be used against wildfires until all civilian resources are deployed.
 
Active duty military personnel have been mobilized to serve as wild land firefighters a total of 35 times since 1987. The last time was in 2006.
 
Since then, it has not been necessary to ask for military assistance, Forest Service officials said.
 
Nearly 4,000 volunteers also answered the state's call for help. It was far more than will be accepted, said state Department of Natural Resources spokesman Joe Smillie.
 
The state is looking for former firefighters or heavy equipment operators. The hope is that they can bulldoze fire lines to corral the blazes. That would keep them from spreading in mountainous, timber-covered areas. So far, about 200 people with the right experience have been cleared to work.
 
The dozens of firefighters from Australia and New Zealand were being outfitted to fill a critical shortage of mid-level fire managers. Those include equipment bosses, strike team leaders and supervisors.
 
The Southern Hemisphere nations have been partners with the U.S. for more than 50 years. Australia and New Zealand are able to lend firefighters because the severest parts of their fire seasons occur at opposite times of the year. The last time the U.S. asked for their help was 2008. Fifty firefighters arrived. The U.S. sent firefighters abroad in 2007.
 
Costs for the international firefighters will be paid by the agency they are assigned to, officials said. No cost estimate was yet available.
 
Chris Arnol is an international liaison for Australia and New Zealand firefighters. In Boise, he said that the firefighters were ready to assist.
 
"We understand how tough it is for you guys and we are happy to help," he said.
 
Simon Martin is a 40-year-old firefighter from Collie, Australia. He agreed.
 
"I am sure there are a lot of fatigued firefighters out there," he said.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 102 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why are firefighters coming from as far as New Zealand to fight these fires?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (26)
  • gabel-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:19 p.m.

    Well there was a huge shortige of mild level firefighters And the fire was huge.

  • gabel-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:21 p.m.

    There was a huge shortige of mild level firefighters so they had to call backup.

  • braydene-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:22 p.m.

    The fire fightrs are coming to fight the fire becuse people need places to live.Parents are helping to stop the fires that are happing.

    I think this article is about how dangers fires can be and how fire fighters help people.3 of the fire man have
    dide trying to help. 4 have been ingerd.

  • sofiam-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:24 p.m.

    firefighters are coming from new Zealand to fight fires because the pepole need help. there must be a lot of fires because washington are haveing many proplems with wild fires,Im geseing there must be a lot of dry land if there has been 37 wild fires sence 1987.

  • davidc-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:25 p.m.

    The New Zealand firefighters are helping to the north west are happy to help people in the north west.The Fifefighters put out fires.

  • cosmov-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:25 p.m.

    I think it is so cool that all those people wanted put out the fire

  • mikaylas-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:26 p.m.

    well i the article the firefighters came because the fires were so big that they needed more people to help and people were dieing. It is awesome how people help/volenter but its super sad how people are dieing from all these fires though and people house were getting taken away for them because the fire were taking them down.

  • alexg-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:28 p.m.

    Firefighters are coming from New Zealand because they get fires on the opposite time of year.They have heavy equipment operators and some former firefighters.Our firefighters need all the help they could get.

  • justinm-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:29 p.m.

    To protect others from fires so they don't get injured or
    die that is why firefighters are coming from as far as New Zealand because fires can spread through the woods so it can cause a forest fire so what a firefighters job is to take care of fires so people don't get hurt or burned.

  • andrewb-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:29 p.m.

    Because the firefighters from around the world are helping fight a fire.Also,the U.S. is asking their help because there is a critical shortage of mid-level firefighters and because the fires have destroyed more than 10,000 square miles.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT