Eight Western Australian fire management specialists will head to the United States today to help fight bushfires that have been raging in California for several weeks.
Emergency Services Minister John Kobelke said the WA crew was part of a 44-strong Australia-New Zealand contingent that had been called on to provide relief to American fire crews.
Mr Kobelke said the officers would serve in a variety of key management roles, including divisional commander, task force leader, helicopter manager and field liaison officer.
The WA team comprises Department of Environment and Conservation officers John Carter, Busselton (team leader); Sam Hurd, Jurien Bay; Jeremy Chick, Kirup; Greg Simpson and Carl Cicchini, Manjimup; and Steve Gunn, Mundaring.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority officer Steve McDonald from Geraldton and Forest Products Commission officer Ben Sawyer from Harvey will also join the crew.
The Minister said WA was known internationally for its fire management expertise and skills and had previously helped the US battle large fires.
“This is the fifth deployment of ANZ fire leaders to the US since the first 50-strong contingent assisted with the US fires in 2000,” he said.
“Our local fire crews are experienced in these types of situations, particularly after last year’s fire season in WA, in which a bushfire emergency period was declared as hundreds of bushfires raged across the State.
“The fact that the US can call on WA to assist during wildfires reflects the high standard of professionalism and ability of our fire crews.”
Mr Kobelke said US fire authorities had also indicated that they might request further assistance from Australia and New Zealand in the next few weeks.
More than 300 fires are continuing to burn in California across more than 280,000ha. Rising temperatures and lightning strikes have been forecast for next week.
The WA team, who will fly to the US today, will be based in California for the next five weeks and will work on two rotations of 14 days each, with two-day breaks in between.
The Minister said WA fire officers who had taken part in previous deployments in other jurisdictions had benefitted from the experience.
"Our fire managers have the opportunity to practise their skills in a major incident working with experienced fire fighters in other States and countries, and this enhances their skills when they return home and tackle fires here in WA,” he said.
The deployment of ANZ fire officers to the US is part of an agreement between Australian, New Zealand and US Federal agencies. It was organised through the Australian Forest Fire Management Group.
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