“I’m sure everybody realizes that’s an Aussie kangaroo…”
Dean Dobrilla is from Mclean, Australia. He’s the only Aussie firefighter at the Milo base camp where firefighters are battling the Miles Fire currently burning more than 45, 000 acres.
He’s also a safety officer who goes by the name “Aussie safety” among fellow camp members.
“Aussie safety seemed to work pretty well…and that’s pretty identifiable,” Dobrilla said.
He’s one of 140 firefighters from Australia and New Zealand who arrived earlier this month to help fight wildfires on the West Coast. It’s his first time fighting fires in the U.S.
“There’s a bit of a language barrier here at times, even though we both speaking English, but I think they’ve gotten used to the Aussie accent on the radio…,” he said.
It’s a partnership the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, have shared for half a century.
“Heck, I came from 2,000 miles away and I don’t even know how far it is to Australia…,” said Jeff Gardner, public information officer for the Miles Fire.
He says the extra help is much appreciated…especially on the Columbus Fire, where firefighters have been working hard to protect the Umpqua National Forest and the world’s largest sugar pine.
It’s 265 feet tall and firefighters have setup sprinklers around the tree just in case flames get close.
“You know, they’ve come here from all the way across the world to help out…and I think that’s amazing that they wanted to do that,” Gardner said.
Dobrilla only has a few days left at this base camp, but says he’s made lasting friendships.
“You tend to make some pretty lifelong friendships in this industry…”
And lifelong memories.
“There’s been a lot of Crocodile Dundee jokes. And I know I didn’t bring a knife…”
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