|Participants in the appreciation reception included, from left, Merrill Saleen, Fire Operations Officer with the Bureau of Land Management; New Zealand Ambassador Roy Ferguson; Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne; Australian Ambassador Dennis Richardson; Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan; Canadian Deputy Chief of Mission Claude Carriere; New Zealand Minister of Trade Negotiations Phil Goff; Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns; Bodie Shaw, Deputy Director, Wildland Fire Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs; Jeffrey Stern, Secretary Kempthorne's White House Fellow and former wildland firefighter and battalion fire chief in Colorado. DOI Photo by Tami Heilemann.|
WASHINGTON –Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns today formally thanked the ambassadors of Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Canada for their nations’ assistance last summer, when they dispatched hundreds of their wildland firefighters to help quell forest and rangeland fires in the western United States.
“Through our mutual exchange of firefighters, information and technologies, we strengthen the capabilities of our nations to meet the formidable challenges of wildland fire management,” Secretary Kempthorne said. “Our closest neighbors – Canada and Mexico – and our close allies from across the Pacific – Australia and New Zealand – deserve our special thanks for their cooperation and their help.”
“Our wildfire collaboration is an important partnership,” said Secretary Johanns. “We are grateful to the firefighters from Australia, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand who last year stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our firefighters on the fireline. I’m confident that I speak on behalf of USDA and indeed all Americans, when I say thank you to our international firefighting partners.”
Representing their respective nations were Australian Ambassador Dennis Richardson, New Zealand Ambassador Roy Ferguson, Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan and Canadian Deputy Chief of Mission Claude Carriere.
In the 2006 fire season, the four nations sent several hundred firefighters to assist the United States in battling wildland fires in the West. The Departments of Interior and Agriculture, through the National Interagency Fire Center, also send firefighters to help fight wildland fires in these countries.
During the official reception at the Interior Department, Kempthorne and Johanns presented the ambassadors with chrome-plated pulaskis, a firefighting tool, and engraved plaques, expressing the nation’s thanks.