Firefighter returns home from battling Australian bush fire

Earlier this month local firefighters returned from Australia where they were helping battle the bush fires that have burned 46 million acres, so far. A group of 4 firefighters from Southern Oregon were deployed there for a month.

Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest firefighter, Mark Hocken, is used to fighting fire in the Pacific Northwest, but millions of acres in Australia have burned so he signed up to help. After all, their firefighters helped us fight fires here.

“They would come over and help us out. So it was definitely a good opportunity to help them when they needed it the most,” Hocken said.

Hocken was an air officer in Omeo, Australia, a small town in the state of Victoria on the southeast coast. As an air officer, he was tasked with managing aircraft. Down under, he says, the verbiage is very different.

“Everything’s bombing over there. So if you’re going to drop water it’s bombing. Water drop and retardance you would say go bomb this, which was really hard to say over the radio. It really was,” Hocken said.

While everyone spoke English there was a language barrier, especially because they didn’t get his sarcasm.

“They don’t have sarcasm like we do,” said Hocken.

But the crews did some amazing work, including rescuing wildlife.

“The baby kangaroo that was burnt they brought in. Just the paws were, so they were helping it out,” said Hocken.

For a firefighter from Southern Oregon who’s no stranger to wildfires the eucalyptus all over the Australian outback is a whole different ballgame.

“It just torched and went. So it traveled lots of miles within an evening or something like that. So it was very devastating for them,” said Hocken.

Hocken says the Australians have a much better electronic mapping system for their firefighters than what we have here.

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