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Australian 737 airtanker sent to fight US wildfires

Australia has sent a jet air tanker to the United States to help fight wildfires in the US. Source: Associated Press

Officials at the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise said that the Boeing 737 from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service had arrived.

The jet is being made available through an agreement between the US Department of Agriculture and Australia.

The airtanker has two internal tanks with a capacity of 4,000 gallons, classifying it as a large air tanker. The aircraft is named Marie Bashir after Dame Marie Bashir, the former governor of New South Wales.

“We greatly appreciate having this air tanker from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service assisting us,” said Kim Christensen, deputy assistant director for operations for the US Forest Service.

“We’re proud of the long history of cooperation we have with Australia and other countries.”

The centre moved to national preparedness level 5. That’s the highest level and means firefighting resources are stretched thin due to multiple large wildfires burning in the US West.

The centre said that there were 82 large, active fires in 13 states that have burned 2,600 square miles. More than 21,500 firefighters and support personnel are currently mobilized to fight the wildfires.

So far this year, wildfires have burned more than 5,300 square miles.