Minnesota firefighters begin emergency deployment in Australia

Firefighters in Australia battle rampant wildfires.

Two Minnesota firefighters are already in Australia Monday to help battle the bush fires that have captured the world’s attention.

The fires have burned 12 million acres so far, which is more than four times the size of the Twin Cities metro area.

Firefighters are battling the wildfires by hand, so a pair of Minnesotans have gone to help.

Two wild land firefighters, both federal workers in Minnesota, are in Australia helping.

Marty Casselius of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Mike Crook, of the National Forest Service, are the men who have lent their services so far.

The men have specific skills that make them useful in Australia for their 30-day deployment. Crook has experience with fire behavior and monitoring fire weather. Casselius is a division supervisor and can help out on the ground with firefighters.

In addition to the on-the-ground help, a Shakopee-based group is collecting funds to help the recovery effort in Australia.

The Minnesotans and the other fire crews across Australia received some help from above Monday as rain allowed residents to return to towns evacuated over the weekend.

A state of emergency is still in effect in New South Wales, where more than 100 fires are still burning.

The Australian Military has been deployed to get food and supplies to the communities isolated by the fires. Wildlife experts are also in those areas to deal with the thousands of injured animals.

Experts think over 50 percent of the Koala populations are gone as a result.