California Firefighters Help Australia Battle BushFires

Published on January 5, 2020

SoCal firefighters are heading to Australia to help battle the country’s largest bushfire in history—wiping out half a billion wildlife animals, claiming 23 lives, scorching over 13 million acres, destroying some 1,365 homes and an economic loss of $50 million a day.

Forest Service spokesman Andrew Mitchell told CBS the Angeles National Forest Service is sending a total of 20 firefighters from the L.A. Metro area.

“This is definitely kind of a once-in-a-career opportunity for many folks…they have experience leading crews themselves, and they all (have) anywhere from five to 20 years of experience,” Chief Robert Garcia with the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) said.

They will assemble at the Little Tujunga Hotshot Station and fly out of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Monday.

100+ Fire Personnel Combating Australia‘s Wildfires

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the U.S. deployed an additional 21 firefighters from the Department of the Interior (DOI) and USFS on Jan.4, 2020.

@ForestServiceNW tweeted, “100+ #fire personnel from the #USA are now working w/#Australia’s fire crews combating the devastating #fires. We send well-wishes of rain, lower temperatures & decreased winds. Thank you for your efforts!”

And Canada is joining the fight against the bushfires in Australia for the first time and is sending an additional 15 firefighters Monday. 

“Our thoughts and prayers, with our deepest condolences, are with the Australia firefighters and public who have lost their lives and homes, said U.S. Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza. “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.”

For over 15 years, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand have exchanged fire assistance. Australia and New Zealand sent 138 wildfire management personal for almost 30 days to combat the Northern California wildfires in August 2018.

Terrain and Weather Pose a Challenge for SoCal Firefighters

Garcia says although the firefighters are experienced to battle the deadly wildfires burning through New South Wale (NSW) and Victoria, weather and new terrain pose a challenge.

“A local knowledge of how weather patterns affect a specific canyon, that will be the piece of knowledge they won’t have and they’ll have to communicate with locals,” Garcia told CBS.

But to combat these obstacles, Scott Mclean, Spokesman of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told the Times, any firefighter sent to Australia will need “training prior to going out on the line.”

Donate to Those Affected

You can donate to Australia’s Red Cross, with funds or items, but the charity says physical donations are impossible to distribute because of the bushfires.

“Our experience with the emergencies shows that donations of money, where possible, help affected communities recover soon,” the Red Cross said.

Salvation Army Australia:

You can donate to the Salvation Army Australia, which launched a disaster appeal by helping those affected by the wildfires: providing shelter and meal to emergency responders and evacuees.

“Our teams are providing meals to evacuees and frontline responders, and will continue to provide whatever support is needed as the situation develops,” said Major Topher Holland, General Manager Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management.


You can donate money on GIVIT—100 percent of the money will be used to purchase essential items—or donate items those affected listed.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society:

The St. Vincent de Paul Society is providing families with food, clothing, helping pay bills and other essentials. Donate here.

Helping the Wild Life

You can help the devastated wildlife by donating to WIRES, Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organization.

And you can help Koalas by donating to the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital’s verified GoFundMe page.

For a complete list of ways you can help, click here.

Kevin Pichinte is a staff writer at Grit Daily. Based in Los Angeles, he is a news associate at ABC7 and was formerly a digital news intern at NBC7 and TLM20. At Grit Daily, he covers entertainment and culture news.

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