At least 100 firefighters from Mexico arrived in California on Wednesday to help battle several wildfires burning across the state.
Five teams of 20 trained, equipped firefighters from the Comisión Nacional Forestal, or CONAFOR, landed at San Bernardino International Airport where they were welcomed by officials with the U.S. Forest Service.
The firefighters, who hail from 22 states throughout Mexico, will undergo several days of orientation and training sessions before they will be sent first to work in the Sequoia National Park, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The park is threatened by the SQF Complex of fires ignited by lightning in the Sequoia National Forest. The Sequoia Complex is comprised of the Castle and Shotgun fires.
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Burning since Aug. 19, the complex has scorched nearly 144,826 acres and was just 35% contained as of Thursday. The fire has also destroyed 189 structures and threatens scores more, according to CalFire.
“I am excited about this unique opportunity to visit a station where I worked and trained when I was young," said Eduardo Cruz, the current director of CONAFOR. "The training I received helped me advance my career and now I feel able to help USFS and Sequoia, bringing firefighters from Mexico with me, to provide support in the California firefighting effort."
Cruz spent two seasons as a forest firefighter with a helicopter crew in the Sequoia National Forest early in his career, as part of the training and exchange program.
In 1989, USFS dispatched fire management specialists to assist Mexico during the disastrous fire season that occurred in the State of Quintana Roo. This year, the firefighters of Mexico will be able to return the favor.
Since 1962, USFS has had a long history of cooperation with Mexico in the area of fire management. USFS has been providing training and supporting Mexico in strengthening its fire fighting capabilities since 1983, the organization said.