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U.S. firefighters sent to battle Australia’s wildfires arrive to cheers and applause

Australia fires
A firefighter tackles a wildfire south of Nowra, Australia.
(William West / AFP/Getty Images)

More than 100 U.S. firefighters, including dozens from California, have traveled to Australia over the last month to help combat the country’s wildfires that have consumed more than 12.5 million acres of vegetation.

On Thursday morning, the latest batch of firefighters landed at Sydney International Airport, where they were welcomed with cheers and applause. The video was captured by Shane Fitzsimmons, commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

“Coming through, all gathered gave a spontaneous and lengthy round of applause, reflecting the gratitude and admiration we all have for their generosity,” he tweeted.

The firefighters will assist the Victoria Rural Fire Service, the largest fire service in the Australian state of Victoria. The National Interagency Fire Center — the Boise, Idaho-based government agency that is coordinating the deployment of firefighters from the United States -- was not immediately available to comment on which parts of the U.S. the group came from.

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One woman told CNN that her husband from Alabama was part of the group featured in the clip.

A total of 59 firefighters and fire management personnel left Monday for Australia from Los Angeles International Airport, NIFC public affairs specialist Carrie Bilbao said.

Twenty of those firefighters were assembled by the Angeles National Forest Services. The group has a collective total of 100 years of experience and were all leaders in their units. Those assembled included a husband and wife, a 21-year firefighting veteran and a father of four.

“Our Australian sisters and brothers have helped us over the years,” fire prevention technician Jonathan Merager said. “It seemed natural to reciprocate that assistance.”

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In August 2018, Australia and New Zealand sent roughly 140 firefighters to the United States for nearly 30 days.

The exchange of fire resources between the U.S. and Australia is made through an agreement between the U.S. Department of the Interior and Emergency Management Australia. NIFC is sending firefighters to Australia for the first time since 2010.

Roughly 2,700 firefighters are on the front lines in Australia, fighting to quell the flames that have engulfed millions of acres and killed at least 24 people and millions of birds, reptiles and mammals.


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