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Federal firefighters, others in Australia fighting huge brush fires

32 employees help out on national emergency

SHARE Federal firefighters, others in Australia fighting huge brush fires
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A firefighter controls a backburn near Mangrove Mountain, north of Sydney, Australia, on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. Hot dry conditions have brought an early start to the fire season.

Rick Rycroft, Associated Prss

SALT LAKE CITY — Federal and state firefighters along with other personnel from multiple agencies and states — including Utah — are spending the holiday season away from home and in Australia, where they are helping to combat massive brush fires burning across nearly a million acres.

The fires are considered some of the worst on record, prompting the country to declare a national emergency.

The Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with Alaska, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, California, Hawaii and Virginia sent 21 firefighters to Australia.

Another 11 employees from the Forest Service, including the Intermountain Region, which is headquartered in Ogden, are also assisting in Australia. One of those workers is the region’s fuels program specialist, Linda Chappell.

The state of emergency was declared due to a massive fire near Sydney. The Gospers Mountain Fire, which is burning in the Wollemi National Park, is expected to fuse with the Green Wattle Creek blaze.

These fires are being fueled by 25 mph winds amid 113 degree temperatures.

Craig Glazier, the Forest Service’s Intermountain Region deputy director of fire and aviation, said the United States, Mexico and Canada have a cooperative, reciprocal agreement in place to help Australia.

There have been two mobilizations of U.S. firefighters this month, including this latest one, and Glazier said he planned to submit nominations for a third deployment on Monday afternoon. He added he expects there to be a fourth mobilization early next year.

“Those guys are in bad shape in Australia,” he said.

This is the first time since 2010 that U.S. firefighters have been sent to Australia. Last year, Australia provided assistance to quell wildfires in California and throughout the Northwest. The fires in California were the deadliest and most destructive ever recorded.