Update from the UK contingent supporting Australian wildfires

Following the deployment of a group of specialists – including the UK fire service – to Australia to look at potential support for the devastating wildfires, a range of activities have already taken place.

The team is carrying out extensive work with Australian fire representatives and authorities to identify if UK fire are needed to offer support on the ground during the coming weeks and months.

The UK fire service representation is Nick Searle, NFCC’s National Resilience lead - and Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service. His role will include meeting with local fire and local authorities, while providing expert advice.

The UK team arrived in Canberra late morning (Friday January 10th) and met with the High Commissioner where they received an update before visiting the Australian Government Crisis Coordination Centre. This also included colleagues from the USA and France.

The team has been told that it is unlikely the fires can be put out by additional people and Australian authorities feel there are enough firefighters deployed at the current time. Therefore there is no request for further firefighter assistance at the current time.

However there is appreciation for the UK contingent as part of this specialist team, scoping out potential areas for future assistance.  

At the present time, there are 2,000 firefighters on the ground in New South Wales, while in Victoria, 1,400 have been deployed.  

The next part of the deployment will visit Melbourne where the team will visit the command centre. This will include meeting senior commanders to get an overarching view on any potential future requirements and support which could be provided by the UK. 

Following this, the team travels to Victoria to meet with State level commanders which will give an insight into any additional requirements.

To date, the wildfires in Australia have claimed 27 lives, 2,300 homes and 7.6 million hectares of land.

In addition, communities have been isolated and displaced, grazing land and infrastructure has been damaged and livestock lost. There are additional economic and environmental impacts, potential water contamination from deceased livestock and further consequences for wildlife. 

NR australia delpoyment

 One of the biggest concerns is that there is at least two months of the fire season left and further erratic weather could have major impacts. While Australian authorities are comfortable in the short term, there are concerns for the future recovery. 

NR australia deplyoment Emergency Management Victoria Commissioner, Andrew Crisp

  • The team consists of senior fire representation, a medical specialist in trauma & mental health and a military liaison officer, specialising in crisis response. It was set up following a meeting with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office earlier this week.
  • The work will include looking at what type of support would be most useful, how long it may be required and to ensure any further assistance is in line and coordinated with firefighting efforts currently underway in Australia.
  • During times of national and international disaster, the UK ISAR Team (International Search and Rescue) can be deployed to assist – and a team can be mobilised within six hours.
  • Any future UK deployment would be made as part of UKISAR capability at the request of the government. Previously UKISAR has assisted internationally with earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and the Japanese tsunami. It is one of 27 United Nations teams from across the world. UK ISAR is entirely self-sufficient
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