Six volunteer firefighters are being treated in hospital with serious injuries after their water tanker rolled while fighting blazes in Eurobodalla on the NSW south coast.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the six firefighters were taken to hospital with serious injuries after the crash on Thursday night as they fought the Clyde Mountain fire.
The latest incident comes as three US aerial firefighting crew were killed when their Lockhead C-130 Hercules crashed heavily on Thursday afternoon near Cooma.
A minute’s silence was held for staff at RFS headquarters on Friday morning as a mark of respect for the three experienced Americans. Coulson Aviation, which owned the plane the trio was flying on Thursday, named the men as Captain Ian McBeth, 44, Paul Hudson, 42, and Rick de Morgan junior, 43.
At least 32 Canadians and US firefighters were farewelled amid the grief and sadness after working tirelessly for the past month helping NSW crews.
RSF Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the three crew killed were experienced and trained in using C130 tankers for firefighting. The cause of the deadly plane crash remains unclear.
Crews from the US and Canada, who are wrapping up their deployment to the #nswfires, have held a minutes silence as a mark of respect for the three American crew members killed in yesterday’s Large Air Tanker crash. We thank these crews for their support. #nswrfs pic.twitter.com/UNCt9APUMA
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 23, 2020
Mr Barilaro told the ABC the injuries to the six volunteers at Eurobodalla might include spinal injuries.
“You can see clearly it’s tough conditions and our volunteers are going beyond the norm to try to protect community and lives,” he said.
The injured firefighters are being treated at Batemans Bay Hospital, the ABC reported.
An emergency warning was issued on Thursday afternoon in the Eurobodalla region, where people were urged to seek shelter and home were under immediate threat.
EMERGENCY WARNING – Clyde Mountain (Eurobodalla LGA)
Fire activity increasing & immediate threat to homes. If you are in Moruya, West Moruya, Mogendoura & Wamban areas, seek shelter as fire arrives. If you're in Woola & Nobbies Island area, monitor conditions. #nswrfs #nswfires pic.twitter.com/4tbkiliolr
— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) January 23, 2020
US and Canadian firefighters return home
NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott and Commissioner Fitzsimmons farewelled the 24 Canadian and eight US firefighters, a role described as “sweet sorrow” by Mr Elliott.
“In my house, when we farewell guests after their stay, there’s a black hole when they go,” Mr Elliott said.
“That’s what we’re going to find with you guys.”
Mr Elliott thanked the crews for their contribution in what will be remembered as one of the “darkest summers” in NSW.
He also promised to come to the aid of US and Canada if needed in the future.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the US and Canadian fire crews made a discernible difference in the firefighting effort.
“What you have been able to provide is some reprieve, some rest for crews who have been going for weeks and months,” he said.
The fire chief said the death of the three US firefighters was a “confronting and sombre” reminder of the extent of this year’s fire season.
“We will be forever indebted to the enormous contributions and ultimate sacrifice that’s been paid by these extraordinary individuals,” he said.
Alaska region fire management officer Chuck Russell said the extreme fire weather and behaviour in NSW was surprising for firefighters.
“The sheer scale on the fire landscape is certainly unprecedented,” he said.
“It’s been surprising to some by how much fire is on the ground.”
He said each visiting firefighter was glad to come to Australia’s aid and grateful for the opportunity to help.
“The Australians have been in it for a marathon,” he said.
“Anything we can do to relieve that burden.”