By Tim Johnson
Confronted by its worst bushfire season in decades, Australia has faced an unprecedented loss of human life, wildlife, and property, hazardous smoke, violent weather, and extreme heat beginning in the summer of 2019. At one point, bushfires extended across a 950-mile front—equivalent to the distance between New York City and Orlando—and the fires have burned an area greater than the size of the state of Washington.
Through the ongoing crisis, the United States has stood shoulder to shoulder with Australia. Coordinated through the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center, hundreds of courageous American firefighters responded to support Australia in fighting the bushfires, just as Australian firefighters have supported Americans in similar times of need. Sadly, three brave American firefighters tragically perished in the line of duty while helping Australia combat the bushfires.
Under the leadership of Ambassador Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr., the U.S. Mission to Australia has worked to take care of those most in need and to ensure the safety of American citizens, while responding to the Australian government’s request for U.S. support. The USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has been providing support to a non-profit organization, Save the Children, to help young Australians who have suffered severe trauma during this crisis, giving them the tools to become more resilient. As part of ongoing enhanced air cooperation training between the U.S. and Australian militaries, U.S. Air Force teams are working with their Australian counterparts to combat the fires on the ground and from above. By working together, the United States and Australia demonstrated the unbreakable nature of the U.S.-Australia alliance, and their firm commitment to support each other in times of need.
Tim Johnson is the cultural affairs officer at Embassy Canberra.