The wildfires in Australia are wreaking havoc across the country and causing unspeakable devastation. Millions of acres have burned in the environmental disaster, and scientists believe more than 1 billion animals, including some of the planet’s rarest species, have been caught in the crosshairs of the fires.
Many people across the U.S. are reaching for their pocketbooks to raise money to help Australia’s hard-hit fire services and help save the animals. (If you’d like to donate for the animals, here’s a vetted list of organizations that are making a difference for Australia’s wildlife.) But people are helping in other ways, too: Crews of American firefighters are making their way to the front lines to help battle back the flames.
The National Interagency Fire Center, a U.S. federal government agency responsible for mobilizing multiple units from across the country, called up about 150 to 160 firefighters to head to the land down under to assist local departments. This is the first time the U.S. has sent firefighters to help fight wildfires in Australia since 2010.
On Jan. 9, a group of American firefighters arrived at Sydney Airport and received a pleasant surprise upon arrival. A large group of Australians had gathered in the arrival hall to welcome the firefighters with cheers and applause.
New South Wales Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons was at the airport to greet the firefighters and recorded the touching moment on his phone. He shared the video on Twitter, which quickly went viral. It now has more than 73,000 likes and more than 18,000 retweets and is still going strong.
US fire fighters arrived at Sydney Int Airport this week, on their way to assist with fire fighting in Victoria.
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
— Shane Fitzsimmons (@ShaneFitzAU) January 9, 2020
Fitzsimmons said everyone gathered was there to show the “gratitude and admiration we all have for their generosity.”
A few days earlier, nearly two dozen American and Canadian firefighters were among the first to arrive to help the Australians. Journalist Damian Cave captured their arrival at the Sydney airport thanks to some lucky timing and snapped a photo to post to Twitter, adding that Australians cheered for them, too:
I happened to return to Sydney this morning right as 21 American and Canadian firefighters arrived to help with fires. Officials thanked them. Australians in the airport clapped and cheered. pic.twitter.com/TJvEA41pao
— Damien Cave (@damiencave) January 5, 2020
The U.S. Consulate in Melbourne also captured the arrival of U.S. firefighters and posted the moment to Twitter, writing, “48 U.S. firefighters arriving in Melbourne to lend a hand to the rockstar Aussie crews battling bushfires day & night. They’ll deploy to country Victoria to help our friends, just as they’ve helped us many times.”
48 U.S. firefighters arriving in Melbourne to lend a hand to the rockstar Aussie crews battling bushfires day & night. They’ll deploy to country Victoria to help our friends, just as they’ve helped us many times. ❤️🇺🇸🇦🇺 #USwithAUS #vicfires #AustraliaFires pic.twitter.com/H4x6eo6BpD
— usconsulatemelbourne (@usconsulatemelb) January 8, 2020
The firefighters in Australia have certainly earned a break. They’ve been working tirelessly to save lives from day one, so any chance they get to recharge their batteries will surely be welcome.
Good luck to all of the firefighters from all over the world who are helping in the brushfire crisis!