Friends Helping Friends

On Monday October 19 Ambassador Mark Gilbert paid a visit to the National New Zealand Fire Service Headquarters in Wellington. He was hosted by Kevin O’Connor, National Rural Fire Authority Officer, and Paul McGill, Deputy National Commander of The New Zealand Fire Service, and expressed the deep appreciation of the United States government for the service of the 15 interagency group of New Zealanders deployed to the U.S. to fight wildfires in the Western United States in August and September.

The firefighters and response crew were part of a larger group of Australians and New Zealanders deployed. The Ambassador enjoyed hearing more about the team’s deployment, and the ties that are being fostered in this important area of bilateral cooperation. The deployment was coordinated by the National Interagency Fire Center in the United States: “Australia and New Zealand have been key partners with the U.S. fire community for more than 50 years but were last mobilized in 2008 when severe fire activity was similar to this year.” The New Zealanders were primarily stationed in Washington State, after an initial stint in Boise, Idaho, where they played a key role in relieving U.S. firefighters, subduing fires and working with local communities.

The Embassy is enormously grateful for the service of New Zealanders in assisting with the wildfires that have consumed so many resources in Western America following a long, busy, and sadly tragic wildfire season. We look forward to thanking the group in person in early November.

Ambassador Mark Gilbert (center) with National Rural Fire Officer Kevin O’Connor (right) and Deputy National Fire Service Commander Paul McGill (left). Photo credit: New Zealand Fire Service