The United States has two international firefighting agreements
defining how the U.S. and other nations may exchange personnel and
equipment to assist with fire suppression activities. An emergency
agreement was established with Australia and New Zealand during
the fire season of 2000, and we are working on long-term arrangements
with these countries.
An agreement with Canada has existed since 1982 and was defined
by the exchange of diplomatic notes in 1982 and by yearly operational
guidelines. Over 1300 Canadian firefighters, plus helicopters and
airtankers, were brought into the U.S. in 2000 under this agreement.
The U.S. signed an agreement with Mexico in June of 1999 through
the Departments of Interior and Agriculture. Its main purpose is
to define assistance that may be provided by both parties for fires
threatening properties and resources along the U.S.- Mexico border.
It also allows both parties to work on fire suppression issues outside
the border zone. During the 2000 fire season, 20 to 40 Mexican nationals
assisted with fire suppression activities in the U.S. Mexican crew
members were dispatched to fires through an arrangement between
the National Park Service and a village just across the border from
Big Bend National Park. Also under this agreement, two other Mexican
nationals helped out in the main warehouse in the Rocky Mountain
The goal of the discussions with Australia and New Zealand is to
develop a long-term arrangement that will involve the exchange of
firefighters and fire managers during severe fire seasons, as well
as provide for technical exchanges to share knowledge, skills and
experience among the various fire management organizations.
The emergency agreement was signed in August 2000 because all U.S.
resources had been exhausted. Approximately 90 Australian and 10
New Zealand firefighters came to the U.S. to assist with fire suppression
efforts in Montana and Idaho.