WASHINGTON – The United States Department of the Interior (Interior) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) have renewed an important international arrangement with Australia to continue a partnership that provides mutual assistance for wildland fire preparedness, suppression and post-fire recovery.
“International cooperation for combating wildland fires is especially critical given the urgent nature and high resource demands of managing these fires,” said Bryan Rice, Director of Office of Wildland Fire (OWF), Interior. “Working together, we can do more to restore and maintain resilient landscapes across all jurisdictions; prepare communities so they can live with and withstand a wildfire without loss of life and property; and safely, efficiently, and effectively respond to wildfires when they happen.”
U.S. Embassy Canberra Chargé d’Affaires James Carouso and Emergency Management Australia Director-General Mark Crosweller signed the renewal of the Wildland Fire Management Arrangement on January 23, 2017 in Australia. The arrangement builds on 15 years of close collaboration between our firefighters, and allows for the sharing of personnel, research, and technology to boost our mutual wildland fire management capabilities.
OWF, USDA Forest Service and U.S. State Department worked closely with Australian counterparts to update and renew this important arrangement. Since the U.S. and Australia have opposite fire seasons, and because these countries use interchangeable methods and doctrine, a mutually beneficial mechanism was established in 2002 for quickly sharing trained personnel and critical resources. The renewed arrangements include updates that cover pre-suppression and prevention activities and reflect current coordinating mechanisms within Australia.
The estimated number of wildfires in the United States for federal, state, and local jurisdictions during Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 was approximately 57,000 fires, and burned more than 5.7 million acres burned in FY 2016. The U.S. is continuing to experience increasing frequency of large wildfires and longer wildfire seasons, which are now almost 3 months longer and in some parts of the country are all year round.
Last year, Australian assistance to the United States included overhead personnel who mobilized to support fire suppression operations primarily in the Northwest Geographic Area. The Federal wildland fire management efforts are coordinated by OWF, which prepares an annual report in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service, highlighting shared and agency specific initiatives and accomplishments, as well as review of the past year’s fire season.