Northern Michigan firefighter helps battle flames in Australia

Jan 15, 2020


Brian Stearns, a Huron-Manistee National Forests firefighter, holds a kangaroo joey who approached firefighters, seeking refuge from Australian wildfires.
Credit Huron Manistee National Forests

A firefighter from northern Michigan is helping battle wildfires in Australia.


Huron-Manistee National Forests employee Brian Stearns was hand-picked by the U.S. Forest Service for his leadership and firefighting experience.






His supervisor, Chris Peterson, a fire and aviation staff officer, says Stearns' advanced drivers license and his experience operatating heavy firefighting equipment was needed by the Australian crews.

"I got the call on Christmas Eve, the notification that he was one of the ones selected to go," Peterson says. "And that was based on his leadership in fireline supervision."


Sterns is helping along with 87 other USDA Forest Service officers fighting fires in New South Wales and Victoria.


Peterson says while the climate in Australia is different, the fire behavior is similar to other U.S. locations. He says Sterns may be there for the entire month.


The U.S. has mutual aid agreements with the Canada, Australia and New Zealand.


The countries have been exchanging firefighting help for more than 15 years.