This past weekend, 188 firefighters finished a journey from Australia and New Zealand to the United States. Their mission? To help American firefighters already dealing with wildfires across the Northwest.
188 Aussie & NZ #firefighters will head to the US this week to battle northern #California #wildfires. The group will assist thousands of American firefighters battle about 90 fires & will remain in the US for up to 6 weeks. 🇦🇺🇺🇸#Mateship #USwithAus https://t.co/1HM4Yq7gG4
— Australia in the US (@AusintheUS) August 2, 2018
Wildfires are now burning in the states of Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and northern California. If this sounds familiar, it's because last year was very similar.
In 2017, California set records no state wants to set—it had the largest and longest-burning wildfires in its history. From the northern wine country to areas surrounding Los Angeles, fires burned from late summer all the way into early winter. Then, in January, mudslides arrived in places where the land had been weakened by the flames.
New year, new fires
Sadly, 2018 is bringing more of the same. Two massive fires called the Mendocino Complex Fire have officially become the new largest wildfire in Californian history. In total, Mendocino has burned 1,148 square kilometres (443 square miles)—that's an area almost the entire size of Los Angeles.
This is just one of many fires found across the Northwest. Another, called the Carr Fire, is raging around the California city of Redding. Altogether, around 14,000 U.S. firefighters are working to beat back the flames in several states. It's tiring and dangerous work—but it's very important work, too.
That's where these Australians and New Zealanders come in.
Full of experience
On the surface, adding a little under 200 people to a force of 14,000 may not seem like a big jump. But the Aussies and Kiwis (Kiwis is the nickname for people from New Zealand!) know their stuff. Australia especially is one hot and dry country. Wildfires are a common hazard during their summers. But since it's winter down under right now, these experienced firefighters can afford to leave their posts and lend a hand halfway around the world.
Australia and New Zealand Firefighters arriving in Redding have mobilized through a longstanding partnership with the USDA Forest Service to ensure adequate numbers of experienced fire managers are available to suppress large fires. #CarrFire #MendocinoComplexFires #MutualAid pic.twitter.com/oovrIGY3v2
— USFS Fire-California (@R5_Fire_News) August 6, 2018
After a day of training to get familiar with differences between the forests in America, the foreign firefighting forces was split across several of the worst wildfires. American firefighters hope these extra hands and minds can help turn the tide in this heated battle.