American and Canadian firefighters were welcomed with loud cheers at Sydney International Airport this week when they arrived in Australia to help combat the catastrophic bushfires that are burning across the country.
This is the first time that firefighters from the U.S. have accepted missions in Australia since 2010, according to CNN. About 100 firefighters from the U.S. and Canada have arrived to help. Another 140 are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
US fire fighters arrived at Sydney Int Airport this week, on their way to assist with fire fighting in Victoria.— Shane Fitzsimmons (@RFSCommissioner) January 9, 2020
Coming through, all gathered gave a spontaneous & lengthy round of applause, reflecting the gratitude & admiration we all have for their generosity. #NSWRFS @NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/5epg5y4qxX
Autumn Snyder told CNN that her husband Sean was among the firefighters welcomed in Sydney this week, and she was “very humbled” by the response.
“It’s so refreshing and gratifying to see them be welcomed and appreciated,” she said.
She said her husband volunteered to go to Australia and was happy to be picked for the assignment, which will last at least 30 days. He works as an assistant fire management officer for the US Forest Service in Talladega, Alabama.
A lethal combination of temperatures above 104 degrees Fahrenheit and strong winds, up to 55 miles per hour, are making conditions in Australia very dangerous heading into the weekend. Authorities in the state of Victoria urged anyone who was able to leave the state to do so.
“If you can get out, you should get out, you shouldn’t be in the remote and forested parts of our State,” Andrew Crisp, Victoria’s emergency management commissioner, said according to NBC News. The emergency warning affects more than 240,000 people in the state of Victoria alone.
As of Friday, there were more than 250 American firefighters in Australia to fight the wildfires, according to the Associated Press, making it the largest-ever deployment of American firefighters abroad.
The US and Australia have been exchanging firefighters for about 15 years. The most recent exchange happened in 2015 when Australian firefighters flew to the US to fight wildfires in California. The US has similar partnerships with New Zealand, Mexico, and Canada.
Since it’s the winter down season, the Americans could afford to send volunteers to Australia, where it’s summer and the fires have been raging since September.
The US plans to send about 100 more firefighters to Australia next week.
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