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Australians Cheer As Canadian Firefighters Arrive To Help With Bushfires

Ryan Ford 8 Jan 2020

Fire crews in Australia have been battling blazes since September, and summer is only getting started Down Under. They've been brave and they've been committed, but the task is absolutely enormous.

More than 10.7 million hectares have burned so far, an area slightly larger than Kentucky, and at least 25 people have died.

Needless to say, the forces on the ground need as much help as they can get.

Help is on the way, and some of it has even arrived.

And if there was any doubt about how welcome that help is, the reaction of onlookers as Canadian fire crews arrived Down Under should cast those doubts aside.

Rock stars don't get such a boisterous reaction, but then again, rock stars typically don't do the serious work firefighters do.

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As far as the Canadians are concerned, they're just returning the favor.

"In 2017 and 2018 [during B.C.'s record-setting wildfire seasons], we had a number of Australians working here and we would have struggled without them," wildlife officer Gary Horsman told the CBC.

"The fact that they are reaching out for international assistance would tell you that it's a very serious situation."

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Despite the distance between the two countries, Australians and Canadians have a well established history of fighting fires together.

"The fuel types are different down there but the tactics and strategy used to manage fires are very similar," Horsman said. "When the people from Australia came here, they integrated into our system pretty seamlessly and we're hoping it's the same when we go down there."

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There are now 95 Canadian firefighting specialists on the ground in Australia.

Facebook | Eden Hills Country Fire Service

They're largely providing expertise in things like aviation, logistics, and fire behavior prediction for fire crews that are made up almost entirely of volunteers. New South Wales's Rural Fire Service is the largest volunteer fire service in the world, according to group captain Will Lee.

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As Lee said, "A fire came through here the other day, fairly ferociously, and it was stopped by a ton of heroes."

Reddit | KeevinWild

While many of the volunteers have years of experience, they're not full-timers. They have day jobs, too, which they're allotted 10 days off from to fight fires. However, this season, many have gone well over.

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Canadians aren't the only ones supporting Australia's firefighters.

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Neighboring New Zealand has sent Australia 179 firefighters since late October. Auckland's deputy principal rural fire officer Scott Marchant joined the fight in November and said that he'd never seen anything like it.

"Just the sheer size and the devastation," he told RNZ. "I've been over to America, Canada, and not even seen anything like what's been going on in Australia."

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More than 100 firefighters have also been dispatched from the U.S.

These include an elite, experienced unit from California that specializes in preventing smaller fires from growing into major infernos.

And as we can see, they were welcomed with as much warmth and enthusiasm as their Canadian counterparts.

If you'd like to donate to help Australia's relief efforts, there are many good, credible agencies, including the NSW RSPCA and the NSW Rural Fire Service. Donate to the RSPCA right here or to the NSW RFS right here.

h/t: CBC, RNZ

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