Alaskans help out with Australia's fires

 Courtesy Chuck Russell/NPS
Courtesy Chuck Russell/NPS (KTUU)
Published: Jan. 7, 2020 at 6:32 PM AKST
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About a dozen Alaskans are currently in Australia helping crews there with fire suppression efforts.

Among them is Alaska National Park Service regional fire management office, Chuck Russell.

In Australia, Russell's job consists of gathering information from the field on what U.S. firefighters have been doing. He briefs new arrivals and coordinates with Australia fire personnel on where they should be based on their qualifications.

"In Alaska, there's snow cover and no risk of fires," he said. "Wherever we needed the help, the Canadians, Australians, New Zealand. They've come and assisted us."

Most of the Alaskans currently working toward fire suppression efforts in Australia are in management positions, according to the Bureau of Land management. Two firefighters, including an Alaska smokejumper and a Chena Interagency Hotshot.

"It's an opportunity for us to return the favor," Russell said. "They've been at it for 120 days now. We can kind of bring a fresh face and a smile to assist them in an unprecedented and extremely long fire season."

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