Australian and New Zealand firefighters arrive in Redding on Monday to help fight blazes around Northern California. U.S. Forest Service Courtesy photo
Fifty-three of the nearly 150 specialists who were requested by U.S. officials last week arrived at the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center in Redding on Monday, NIFC spokeswoman Carrie Bilbao said, while the remaining firefighters were sent to Redmond, Ore.
About two-thirds of the international reinforcements in Redding were sent to the Mendocino Complex Fires, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kerry Greene said, and the remaining third stayed nearby to fight the Carr Fire. They’ll be in the area for up to 30 days, she said.
The group in California includes 10 task force leaders, four structure protection specialists, six safety officers, four helicopter managers, two heavy equipment bosses, 15 division supervisors, 10 crew bosses and two liaison officers, Bilbao said. All of those positions were ones that U.S. fire officials were struggling to fill, she added.
Before arriving at the fires, the Aussies and Kiwis went through a brief training period at the NIFC headquarters in Boise, Bilbao said.
“They went through their fire shelter training because they don’t use them in Australia and New Zealand,” she said. “A lot of (their firefighting is) similar to what we do here, but basically terminology and how things are run, they practiced deployment, got their gear (and) took off this morning.”
The Mendocino Complex Fire burned more than 290,600 acres (nearly 454 miles) as of Tuesday morning. It is the largest wildfire in the recorded history of California, beating out the Carr Fire still raging in Shasta, which is now the sixth most destructive fire in state history.