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Three C. Oregonians head to Australia to help battle wildfires

BBC News/YouTube/MGN Online
Crews have been battling massive bush fires in Australia in recent weeks

Among over a dozen USFS, BLM workers sent over weekend to assist

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Three Central Oregon firefighters are among more than 20 Northwest Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management personnel with specific expertise who left for wildfire-ravaged Australia over the weekend to help out, much as that country has sent crews to help the U.S. battle major wildfires in the past.

The three from the High Desert include Prineville BLM engine Captain Tavis Fenske; Norm Sealing, a rappel operations manager with an Ochoco National Forest initial attack crew, Central Oregon Rappellers; and James Osborne, a Deschutes National Forest fire management officer, Ochoco National Forest spokesman Patrick Lair said Monday.

Australians battle bush fires every year, but few have compared to the widespread devastation this fire season, with nearly 20 million acres burned, at least 25 people killed and numerous homes destroyed.

The BLM in Oregon/Washington announced Monday that it has deployed four firefighters to assist Australia with the prolific wildfires spread throughout the country.

The firefighters include staff from the BLM Vale, Prineville and Burns Districts that have accompanied 13 other interagency Pacific Northwest firefighters also assisting Australia.

The BLM firefighters from Oregon/Washington being deployed to Australia include expertise in air tactical support, wildland fire incident management, and firefighter crew leadership.

Fires that started to burn in August have continued uninterrupted, with large areas of both New South Wales and Queensland burned, multiple property losses, and, sadly, fatalities.

Fire conditions continue to challenge in New South Wales and Queensland, while new fires are causing concern further south in Victoria. Fire conditions in Australia are extreme due to an extended drought, hot temperatures, and relative humidity in the single digits.

The last fire assistance between the two countries was in August 2018, when 138 Australian and New Zealand wildfire management personnel were sent to the U.S. for almost 30 days to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest.

The Australian and New Zealand personnel filled critical needs during the peak of the western fire season for mid-level fireline management, heavy equipment, helicopter operations and structure protection.

The National Multi-Agency Coordinating Group is working with the National Interagency Coordination Center to mobilize resources and distribute the request across interagency partners. The last time the U.S sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.

In the Pacific Northwest, the fire program is managed cooperatively between the two agencies and in close collaboration with the Pacific Northwest Wildfire Coordinating Group, an interagency group including the five federal wildland fire agencies, two state forestry agencies, and two state fire marshal associations.

The interagency jurisdiction covers both Oregon and Washington and includes nine BLM districts, 19 national forests, and the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area. By working cooperatively, the agencies administer fire, fuels and aviation programs in a manner that eliminates duplication, increases program efficiency, and capitalizes on the expertise of each agency's personnel.

Additional information about wildland firefighting in the Pacific Northwest is available online at:

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1 Comment

  1. Almost 200 people have been arrested for starting fires in the Northwest Territories in Australia. Just recently a man that was in court charged with setting some of these fires, was laughing at the destruction caused.

    Any guesses? CORRECT! Amish!!!!! Oh wait… not the amish

    How come we don’t hear anything about this on our soil?

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