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Help Coming From Down Under For Western U.S. Firefighters

U.S. Forest Service InciWeb

A retardant drop on the Fork Complex Fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Friday Aug. 7, 2015.

U.S. Forest Service InciWeb

As wildfires burn throughout the western U.S., fire managers are getting additional help and equipment from other countries. 

As of August 20, the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise says there are 76 large, active wildfires in 10 states, including 15 in California, 16 in Washington state, 17 in Idaho and 12 in Oregon. Combined, the 76 fires are burning more than 1.3 million acres. 

NIFC says Australia and New Zealand are sending firefighters to help battle wildfires burning in the western United States. 

The agency announced Thursday that top fire managers representing various U.S. agencies requested about 70 fire managers and specialists from the two countries. 

The firefighters are expected to arrive in Boise on Sunday. After a one-day orientation to learn about current fire behavior they will be assigned to large fires. 

The last time the U.S. asked for help from Australia and New Zealand was in 2008. 

Four MAFFS C-130 air tankers were previously sent to McClellan Airfield in Sacramento,  in support of wildland fire operations. The aircraft come from Colorado, Wyoming and North Carolina. 

"Fire suppression crews from Ontario, Canada, and one Convair 580 air tanker group from Saskatchewan and Alberta are supporting firefighting efforts in the Northern Rockies," NIFC says. 

Drought and heat have combined to make this one of the most active fire seasons in the United States in recent years. Nearly 29,000 firefighters are battling some 100 large wildfires across the western U.S. 

Cal Fire says as of Thursday, more than 11,000 firefighters working to contain wildfires in the state. 

In Washington state, three firefighters were killed when they were overrun by flames.

The U.S. Forest Service identified the fallen firefighters as Tom Zbyszewski, 20; Andrew Zajac, 26; and Richard Wheeler, 31.

Officials say their vehicle crashed Wednesday and flames rolled over them before they could escape. Four other firefighters nearby were injured, one critically.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

 droughtclimate changewildfireDrought2015

Ed Joyce

Former All Things Considered Anchor & Reporter

Ed Joyce is a former reporter and All Things Considered news anchor at Capital Public Radio. Ed is a veteran journalist with experience in a variety of news positions across all media platforms, including radio, television, web and print.   Read Full Bio