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Australian and New Zealand firefighters return from US wildfires

29 September 2015

The Australian and New Zealand firefighting team which has supported the United States battling wildfires in the north west of the country for the past month return home tomorrow.

The 72-strong crew have been part of an international effort to battle large fires across the USA which have burnt more than 9 million acres (3.6 million hectares) of land so far this year.

Victorian Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the interstate and New Zealand personnel should be proud of the support they provided to both firefighters and communities in the USA in the past five weeks.

“The Australian and New Zealand team joined more than 30,000 firefighters supporting wildfire suppression efforts during one of their worst fire seasons in 20 years,” he said.

“The skills of our teams are internationally recognised and I know the firefighters and the communities they were working with have been very grateful.”

During the deployment, personnel worked around 14 incidents in both Oregon and Washington. They fulfilled specialist field-based and leadership roles as heavy machinery operators, task force leaders, divisional supervisors, airbase managers, safety officers and strike team leaders.

The returning Australian personnel include: Victoria (20), New South Wales (18), ACT (4), Queensland (2), Western Australia (9) and South Australia (3).

The New Zealanders (15) in the contingent return today and the Victorians arrive in Melbourne shortly after 10:30am tomorrow. This includes personnel based in the Loddon Mallee, Gippsland, Grampians, Hume and Barwon South West regions from CFA, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), Parks Victoria and Emergency Management Victoria.

A specialist fire investigator will remain in Boise, Idaho for two more weeks.

Australia and New Zealand have had an established relationship with the United States for more than 50 years. This relationship allows for the two countries to offer reciprocal support during emergencies.

“Australia has a well deserved reputation for helping where and when it counts,” Mr Lapsley said.

“We have worked closely with our interstate counterparts overseas and it means we maintain a strong relationship with the USA.”

This is the second international deployment of Australian firefighting crews this year, with more than 100 personnel returning in August from the Canadian wildfires.

Emergency Management Victoria coordinated the deployments on behalf of all Australian states and territories.

Breakdown of returning personnel includes:

NSW/ACT   22
  NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service 5
  NSW Rural Fire Service 8
  Fire and Rescue NSW 3
  Forestry Corporation NSW 2
  ACT Parks Conservation and Land 2
  ACT Rural Fire Service 2
QLD   2
  Queensland Fire and Emergency Services 2
SA   3
  Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources 3
VIC   20
  Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) 11
  Parks Victoria 2
  CFA 6
  Emergency Management Victoria 1
WA   9
  Department of Fire and Emergency Services 5
  Parks & Wildfire WA 4
New Zealand   15
  National Rural Fire Authority 15
TOTAL   71


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