Brave firefighters in California are struggling to battle almost 20 horrific blazes – but they’ve just received some much-needed assistnace.
Four members of the Rural Fire Service Southern Highlands Team have jetted to American’s west coast to assist the locals against the largest fires in California’s history.
Inspector Allan Budziaski, Operational Officer Steve Quinlan, Deputy Captain Matt Duncan (from the Bargo brigade) and firefighter Lou Brancato (from the Wilton brigade) will spend six weeks helping with fire management, strike teams and aviation assistance.
Southern Highlands acting district manager Inspector Neale Ray said the RFS family was hugely proud of the crew members for volunteering to help the Americans.
“It is very important to have this sort of co-operation with our overseas counterparts,” Inspector Ray said.
“It is very draining for the firefighting resources over there, so any sort of relief they can get is welcomed.
“There might be an occasion where we have a similar fire here and American firefighters might come to help us out.”
Inspector Ray said the four team members who headed to California – and similarly raging fires in Oregon – had volunteered for overseas service at the start of the year.
“Each year the service asks everyone, staff and volunteers, if they would like to put their hand up for overseas deployment,” he said. “They must have a certain level of fitness and then they go on a list and wait to hear back.
“When California called for help, these guys were lucky enough to be chosen.”
Inspector Ray said Californian fires were different to local fires, as many of the trees were pine and burned “hot and fast”. He expects the team members will bring back plenty of stories when they arrive home in Sydney.
“They will have learnt a lot and have some war stories to share,” he said.
More than 40 RFS firefighters were deployed on Thursday to work alongside 14,000 firefighters battling non-stop for the last two weeks to keep multiple fires under control.
RFS Australia president Ken Middleton said he was extremely proud that so many firefighters from NSW were willing to assist in fighting the blaze.
“All RFS firefighters are truly world class, so we are immensely proud to be able to lend a hand and offer support to the communities being devasted in the United States,” Mr Middleton said.
“Our firefighters will be bringing their experience in fighting fires in rugged terrain, adapting to fast moving situations and working in large-scale operations in difficult weather conditions.
“We wish all the frontline volunteers and staff well in what will be a challenging operation in the US.”