Australian firefighters have been praised as ‘brave heroes’ for leaving behind their families to fight the relentless and deadly bushfires devastating California.
A powerful image posted online, which has since gone viral, captures a group of the firefighters being briefed by an American counterpart after touching down.
The men can be seen standing in the glare of the red hot sun, wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats to fight back the scorching rays.
A group of almost 200 Australian fire specialists headed to the Golden State last Friday to fight one of the largest fire’s in California’s history.
So far nine people have died in the state’s fires and 45,000 people have been evacuated.
A photo posted by a user on Reddit shows Australian firefighters being briefed by an American counterpart – 53 of whom are based in the northern Californian city of Redding where they are fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire
Support from New Zealand has also been drafted in, and more than 14,000 firefighters in total are now fighting the blaze.
Firefighters from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are included in the deployment, who are being coordinated by emergency response agencies including the US Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The photo was posted on Reddit and quickly gained traction as Americans took the moment to thank Australians for flying over in a bid to contain the raging inferno.
The image, uploaded by user BurritoFueled, was submitted under the headline ‘Dear Australia, Thanks for loaning us your heroes! Love California’.
The Mendocino Complex Fire is being attended to by Australian and Kiwi firefighters, with 53 of them posted to the nearby city of Redding
One of the key hotspots for firefighters in the Pacific state has been the Ranch Fire, which combined with the River Fire near Clear Lake just south of the Mendocino National Forest to form the Mendocino Complex Fire
Plumes of billowing smoke coming from California were captured from the International Space Station – 250 miles above earth
Another member of the thread thanked U.S. firefighters for helping battle Australian fires in 2009.
One user said Australian forces might need the favour reciprocated in the near future – referring to bushfires that hit Queensland and NSW in the spring of 2017.
The US Forest Service tweeted more photos on Tuesday of Australian and Kiwi forces being flown in to the northern Californian city of Redding before being briefed in a meeting room.
Over a third of the nearly 150 specialist Australian and Kiwi firefighters requested by US officials have been assigned to Redding – with two-thirds of them fighting the Mendocino Complex Fires.
2,000 inmate volunteers have been drafted in on wages of $1 an hour to help clear brush and create containment lines for the fires
The complex fires have taken hold in the south of the Mendocino National Forest and are estimated to have grown by 80 per cent since Australian support arrived.
The current fire outbreaks are believed to have been exacerbated by extremely hot and dry conditions on the US west coast.
Yesterday it was revealed that the Australasian firefighters are joined by some 2,000 inmate volunteers who are paid $1 an hour and have been given crash training courses by Cal Fire personnel.
California wildfire creates its own weather system
The wildfire tearing through northern California is so hot it’s formed its own weather system, with strong winds creating ‘firenados’.
The phenomenon occurs when high temperatures drive the air upward, creating gusts of wind in three directions and pushing the smoke vertically.
The winds within the firenados are so strong they can flip cars ‘like toys’, according to fire service spokesman Scott McLean.
At the height of the blaze on Thursday a firenado sent large, fiery chunks of debris into the air, landing on buildings, homes and trees, advancing the spread of the flames.
‘The fire created its own wind. It looks an awful lot like a tornado,’ UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain told the Sacremento Bee.
‘These fire-induced winds were very strong and unpredictable and drove this fire from dry brush and trees into urban areas.’
Redding resident Skip Murphy captured a video of Thursday’s firenado.
‘In case you were wondering what a fire tornado looks like,’ he wrote on Facebook. ‘No audio, but it sounds like a freight train, punctuated with explosions. Never seen anything like it.’
Two-thirds of the 53 firefighters stationed at the Redding base are grappling with the Mendocino Complex Fires
Photos of the Australian and Kiwi firefighters arriving in Redding by plane were posted on Twitter on Tuesday by the US Forest Service
Redding is located 65 km east of the Mendocino National Forest, where a complex fire has scorched more than 283,000 acres
Australian and Kiwi forces have received specialist training from their American counterparts – with total the total number of firefighters in the region now reaching more than 14,000