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Victorian Bushfire Death Toll Rises to 181, US to Send Firefighters Down Under

The death toll continues to rise from the Victorian bushfires with still around 80 people missing:

Bushfires spread towards Healesville

FIREFIGHTERS described by the Prime Minister as a legion of heroes are battling on as the death toll grew to 181.

Up to 80 people were missing as fires loomed over towns in northeast Victoria.

Firefighters worked tirelessly yesterday to make the most of the cool weather before warmer weather returns at the weekend.

The battle wore on as police started assembling a 100-strong team of detectives to hunt the arsonists as part of Taskforce Phoenix.

Fires to be investigated will include Churchill, Marysville, Wandong and Beechworth.  [Herald-Sun]

Here is the most current map of the fires from Parks Victoria:

I was hoping he would do this but US President Barrack Obama is sending American firefighters to help battle the bushfires as well:

US President Barack Obama has phoned Kevin Rudd to offer his condolences over the bushfires and offer US help in fighting the blazes.

“The president offered his prayers to the people of Australia and his condolences to the victims,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

“The president asked if the US could provide assistance to the government and people of Australia to assist with the fire.”

The call came as a contingent of senior US fire personnel prepared to fly to Australia to help battle the killer bushfires.

About 35 American firefighting operation chiefs, aviation managers, planning section chiefs and specialists in land rehabilitation are waiting for final orders to help bolster the effort to control the blazes.

“Australia and New Zealand have been wonderful neighbours and provided help in our time of need and we are happy to return that help,” US National Interagency Fire Centre spokesman Don Smurthwaite told AAP.

Australia, New Zealand and US firefighting agencies have a close working relationship and have participated in exchange programs in recent years.  [Herald-Sun]

American firefighters have come to Australia before to help battle bushfires as well as Australians coming to America to fight forest fires there.  There has long been a great relationship in the firefighting community between the two countries and it is great to see our American firefighters preparing to head to Victoria to help our Aussie friends.

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