Australian Jet Airtanker Arrives To Fight Us Wildfires

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Australia has sent a jet airtanker to the United States to help fight wildfires.

Officials at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise said late Wednesday that the Boeing 737 from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service arrived at the center last weekend.

The jet is being made available through an agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Australia. The airtanker has two internal tanks with a capacity of 4,000 gallons (15,000 liters), classifying it as a large airtanker.

The aircraft is named Marie Bashir after Dame Marie Bashir, the former governor of New South Wales

“We greatly appreciate having this airtanker from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service assisting us,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the U.S. Forest Service. “We’re proud of the long history of cooperation we have with Australia and other countries.”

The center moved to national preparedness level 5 earlier this month. That’s the highest level and means firefighting resources are stretched thin due to multiple large wildfires burning in the U.S. West.

The center said that on Thursday there are 82 large, active fires in 13 states that have burned 2,600 square miles (6,700 square kilometers). More than 21,500 firefighters and support personnel are currently mobilized to fight the wildfires.

So far this year, wildfires have burned more than 5,300 square miles (13,700 square kilometers).