SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The Lake Tahoe division of the United States Forest Service has more firefighters awaiting deployment to Australia to help extinguish fires that have burned over 12 million acres.
The Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit has already sent Fire Capt. Dave Soldavini to Australia. Now, three more firefighters from Lake Tahoe could join him.
Kyle Betty, Tallac Hotshots superintendent; Elsa Gaule, Tallac Hotshot captain; and Richard Neves of Spooner Fire Station are waiting to be deployed.
"We are prepared to bring the same experience and skills to Australia that we use here," said Carrie Thaler, forest fire management officer for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.
Thaler said the fire service in Australia is working with national inter-agency fire centers to request specific positions.
"The fire personnel in this country is selected based on those positions. They have asked for help with public information, aviation...," she said.
To many, the hotshots are the tip of the spear in the firefighting world. Betty has been a hotshot for 18 years.
"Throughout my career, I've experienced quite a few devastating fires, especially within the last few years here in California with what we've been experiencing and going through. But, not really to the scale that it seems to be in Australia at this time," he said.
Betty said going to Australia boils down to wanting to help.
"Those folks have come over here and helped us out in the past and, for me, it's wanting to contribute...go down there and do everything we can...," Betty said.
He added, "They've been struggling with this for a while already, so anything we can do to relieve some of the pressure on them... I look forward to any opportunity to do that."
*This story has been revised to clarify that Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit's firefighters are waiting to be deployed to the Australia wildfires. An earlier headline implied they were already being sent.
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U.S. Forest Service Fire Capt. Dave Soldavini explains the California response to the Australia fires and the famous picture of him holding a kangaroo. Soldavini is based in the Lake Tahoe area.