Local Forest Service staff write home from firefighting excursion in Australia

Members of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest joined other U.S. firefighting personnel in deploying to Australia to aid with the ongoing bushfires.

Posted: Jan 28, 2020 3:07 PM
Updated: Jan 28, 2020 3:36 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — Since heading off to Australia several weeks ago, U.S. Forest Service staff from the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest (RRSNF) have been writing home with updates on the trip and ongoing efforts to curb devastating bushfires down under.

The RRSNF team — consisting mostly of aviation and line crew support staff — were scheduled to begin their flight to Australia on Thursday, January 16, on a mission that will likely last for 30 days. Since then the team has been getting acclimated and started working with the crews already on the ground.

Based on their first message, the local team arrived at their ultimate destination on January 21, after several days filled with travel and training. Finally, they got settled in at their post on the Tambo Complex in the southern state of Victoria, Australia.

"Some hotshots that had pulled together to form a crew arrived yesterday, and have merged together with Aussie crews," RRSNF posted on Facebook Tuesday. "As for the team we RRSNF folks arrived with, we are now running operations."

As hard and unpleasant as the work can no-doubt be at times, it also isn't without reward.

"They give us one day of rest after 6 days of work. One day off, then after the next 5 on, we will get 2 days off, and so on. So, we had Sunday off — this is different than our system where there are typically no days off during an assignment," the team posted. "We went to an island called Raymond Island in Victoria AU, where they put koalas to save them from disease transmission. This preserve has been operating since 1953, and today, they have up to 300 koalas. They may relocate some soon."

RRSNF posted some pictures of koalas lounging in trees on the island, a location untouched by the fires that have ravaged much of the creature's natural habitat throughout Australia.

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