REDMOND, OR -- Oregon fire crews are getting a little help from Down Under. A group of 85 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand arrived at the Redmond Air Center Monday, and are preparing for deployment across the west.
Queensland Station Officer David Sealy is headed to Southern Oregon. He says it’s taken time to adjust to the sheer number of fires burning across such a large area, "We might have fires burning in New South Wales, [and] fires burning in Queensland or Victoria. But, nothing on that scale as to what we’re going to face here in the U.S. At last count, there were 14 states or something, within the U.S. that have active fires."
Dan Barwick, a Deputy Captain from New South Wales, says he’s prepared for the challenging conditions. He tells KBND News he’s already learning how our different trees burn, and the importance of creating fire lines. "We don’t have the duff layer that you guys have here. We don’t need to dig at home. It’s a totally different firefighting in that regard, whilst we found out you do a lot of digging here!" David Sealy, a Station Officer from Queensland, says the accent could prove challenging, as well, "Especially on radios; face to face is not too bad. But, just – it’ll be the accent and different terminologies."
They’ll work as safety officers, task force leaders, crew bosses and other positions over the next six to eight weeks. "The first couple of days will be a challenge," says Ken Murphy, who's ready to be deployed to the 40,000-acre Taylor Creek Fire, "Just understanding the fire behavior over here, understanding the topography, and just getting our head around how the incident is managed; even though we look at these very similar, in how we manage the incidents." Murphy is a Chief Superintendent from New South Wales. He says he’s here to learn, pass along his knowledge to American crews, and assist in any way he can. "At the end of the day, the whole firefighting fraternity across the world is a really big family and we’re just here to help our mates."
Australia and New Zealand are said to be key partners for U.S. Forestry crews and were last mobilized to the area in 2015, during a similarly active fire season.