Wildfire range fire brush fire BLM. (The Enterprise/File)

VALE – As unprecedented wildfires burn across Australia, the Vale District of Bureau of Land Management has deployed a firefighter from Payette to help Australian firefighters contain the blazes.

So far, 24 people have died from the fires across the country, and more than 2,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed, prompting outside support.

Justin Fenton of the BLM was deployed yesterday on a 30-day assignment to Australia, his first time on an overseas mission, according to Larisa Bogardus, public affairs officer for the BLM. He was part of a Northwest contingent dispatched by the BLM.

In addition to having a passport, Fenton met the training and experience required of a crew boss, making him eligible for the assignment.

Fenton also completed, within the past year, what is called an arduous fitness test, which requires carrying a 45-pound pack for three miles in less than 45 minutes, Bogardus said.

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Fenton works during the summer as an assistant fire operations specialist out of the Snake River BLM Guard Station near Huntington, and during the winter, out of the Vale office.

The U.S. and Australia have been helping each other fight fires for over 15 years, and the last time that American firefighters deployed to Australia was in 2010.

In 2018, 138 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand worked in the US for nearly 30 days to help fight fires in the Northwest and in Northern California.

“It is an opportunity to return the favor,” Bogardus said .

Bogardus said that the BLM is in the process of preparing more firefighters who will soon be deployed to Australia. 

News tip? Contact reporter Joe Siess: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

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