Alaska firefighter talks about experience fighting Australian fires

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) As fires rage in Australia, the U.S. has sent around 100 wildland firefighters to the country to help with the fire efforts, including six from Alaska. Over 46 million acres have burned, nearly 6,000 buildings have been destroyed, over 30 people killed, and an estimated one billion animals have died because of wild fires in Australia.

Kyle Cowan works for the Alaska Fire Service but spent most of the month of December helping with fire efforts in Australia. (Courtesy Kyle Cowan)

"Even by Australia's standards, the fire activity and the fire size is unprecedented," said Kyle Cowan, Associate Manager with the Alaska Fire Service.

Cowan volunteered to go to Australia to help organize firefighters from the U.S. who were sent to help. He said while he was there conditions were bad.

"When I was there it was a 112 plus degrees and fire activity was very, very active," said Cowan.

At first he was helping negotiate rates and qualifications then helping other firefighters who showed up with logistics.

Cowan said the American help was appreciated, "They were so kind, very genuine in how they treated us."

He also said he hopes to go back some day.

"Australia was awesome and I would definitely go back. I met many many people that I would love to reconnect with again and so I would definitely go back," Cowan said.

While the weather has been getting better and helping them fight the fires, Cowan says it will be a long time before everything is back to normal. On Thursday, three American firefighters died in a plane crash in Australia.

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