Australia Sends 55 Firefighters To Help Contain The California Wildfires

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Resident Austin Giannuzzi cries while embracing family members at the burned remains of their home during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville, California on August 23, 2020
Resident Austin Giannuzzi cries while embracing family members at the burned remains of their home during the LNU Lightning Complex fire in Vacaville, California on August 23, 2020 AFP / JOSH EDELSON

Australia is sending a pool of firefighters to help control the raging wildfires in California. 

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has confirmed that 55 firefighters will be departing Australia on Sept. 6 to help contain the over 650 wildfires in the U.S. state. The team consists of veteran personnel that will fill aviation, field supervision and management positions, 9News reported. 

Inspector Ben Shepard confirmed that the decision to send firefighters was made after a comprehensive discussion given the prevailing threat of COVID-19 in the United States. 

“We need to ensure the safety and well-being of all those people deployed and obviously, we need to put in place additional in-country health care support," Shepherd told 9News.

He also noted that changes in accommodations as well as providing extra protective equipment have been made to ensure the firefighters’ safety. 

“We're obviously working through protocols and policies and will have a plan because it'll ultimately depend on if unfortunately, someone was to contract COVID, what their reaction to catching the virus might be and whether or not they have to be removed," said Shepherd.

The historic California wildfires have already burned more than 1.5 million acres of land and destroyed over 2,000 structures. This number is expected to increase to 3,000 over the next few days, Daniel Berlant, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesperson, said in a briefing Tuesday. 

The fires have been caused by lightnings across the state. This “lightning siege” is believed to have reached over 14,000 lightning strikes statewide since Aug. 15.

As of Aug. 26, the state has deployed more than 15,000 firefighters and personnel; 2,400 fire engines; 300 dozers; and 280 fire crews to help control the spread of the fires, the California Fire Department revealed. 

The firefighter exchange program between the U.S. and Australia has been on-going for more than two decades. The 55 firies are expected to stay in the U.S. for 30 days. 

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