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Partnership Efforts to Address Australia Wildfires

Posted by Imani Lester, Office of Communications, USDA Forest Service in Forestry
Feb 04, 2020
A Hot Shot crew from the Angeles National Forest working to aid in the Ovens 41 fire
A Hot Shot crew from the Angeles National Forest works to aid in the Ovens 41 fire in Yarrarabula South, Victoria. Forest Service Photo/John Merager

As wildfires, or “bushfires”, burn throughout Australia, the USDA Forest Service and U.S. 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 of 2019.

The Fire year began in Australia in late July, with 2019 marking 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.

In late November, the National Resource Sharing Centre (NRCS), part of the Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council requested U.S. support to help with critical wildfire and aviation shortfalls in New South Wales and Victoria.

"It was humbling to observe the Australians’ resilience, the response in Australia, and level of support from our agency,” said Forest Service Director of Fire and Aviation Management Shawna Legarza. “We will continue to learn from each other in this complex fire environment.”

The Forest Service anticipates the U.S. will provide additional support for as long as our Australian partners need us to assist in containing the ongoing and new wildfires. The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) has received requests from the NRCS for several Type 1 Incident Management Teams, which are self-contained teams recognized for their robust training and experience managing large, complex wildland fire incidents. NIFC has also responded to the request for hot shot crews and a variety of specialized firefighting personnel. These personnel are from multiple land management agencies including the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park’s Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the U.S. Forest Service.

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 (US, 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 US and Australia/New Zealand occurred in 2000 when 96 fire management personnel from Australia and New Zealand were deployed to the US. The first mobilization of fire management personnel to Australia was in January 2003.

NIFC is the nation’s focal point for overseeing all coordination activities for wildland fire and other incidents throughout the U.S. The center is comprised of eight different agencies and organizations: The Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Association of State Foresters, and U.S. Fire Administration.

The Forest Service holds a well-established leadership role in forest management. By working to promote sustainable forest management globally, it helps address important issues such as, illegal logging, habitat protection for migratory species and of course fire management on National Forest System land, as well as on land under the jurisdiction of other Federal, tribal, state and local agencies when needed.

During this devastating time, we reflect on the key Forest Service value of interdependence; how we depend on each other to mitigate wildfire risk and provide safety to the communities we serve, and shared stewardship; because fire knows no boundaries. Stay informed of continued efforts in Australia via the National Interagency Fire Center.

An interagency 'Hotshot' crew working to contain a wildfire
Interagency “Hotshot” crews are the most highly trained, and experienced hand crews and are typically assigned to the most challenging parts of wildfires. Forest Service Photo/John Merager
Category/Topic: Forestry