Australian firefighters "happy to help" in Northwest
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
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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.

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Why are firefighters coming from as far as New Zealand to fight these fires?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • rebeccaa-1-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:30 p.m.

    I think the foreign firefighters came from so far away is because we can depend on them (the foreign firefighters) the way that they can depend on us. Also because of the shortage of firefighters, the foreign firefighters were well trained and we trusted them.

  • melaniem-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:30 p.m.

    Firefighters are coming from as far as New Zealand to fight these fires because the firefighters came to battle the grate blazes burning unchecked in the region.

  • alinap-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:33 p.m.

    The fire got bad so they ask the Australia firefighters
    to come and help.They came to b out the fire and help that how bad it was.They can help burn out the fire.The firefighters were happy!!!

  • mikaylas-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:34 p.m.

    Well in the article the firefighters had to come from New Zealand because the other firefighters were dieing and getting hurt the fire was also very big to big. I just want to say that I think it was very sad that peoples house were getting burnt down and getting taken away from them and people were dieing it was very heart touching =(

  • rikkif-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:34 p.m.

    Firefighters came from New Zealand because Austrailia and New Zealnd wild fires mostly start at different times of the year. Also they each needed help during the wild fires. I think it is good that they help each other.

  • annalicial-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:36 p.m.

    The firefighters are coming from as far as New Zealand to stop fires from spreading to mountains and trees that we get some resorces from

  • gianab-fry
    8/31/2015 - 02:45 p.m.

    The reason why firefighters came as far as New Zealand.Because they were more experienced and more qualified to help with the fire than the other firefighters from other places.The firefighters were also more understanding of the situation.What I learned in the text was that a fire could grow so big to the point to where they need to call other firefighters.

  • nathanr-ver
    9/03/2015 - 04:40 p.m.

    These guys are really helpful

  • lilym-1-bag
    9/03/2015 - 11:54 p.m.

    I think everyone who is helping out with this crises are doing good deeds because they're using their own time and labor to help other people.

  • gunnarh-her
    9/08/2015 - 05:45 p.m.

    There were 71fire fighters from the southern region and that was very kind of them to let us barrow the fire fighters in a time of need from the fires that have taken 200 plus homes

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