Aussie firefighters shot at by hunters
TWO Australian firefighters battling wildfire in the United States were mistakenly shot at by hunters in pursuit of a bear, according to local reports.
The volunteers, including highly experienced firefighter Daniel Barwick, were on patrol with US Forest Service personnel in Washington state on August 23 when they were allegedly set upon by hunters who chased and shot at them.
Nearly 80 Australian firefighters have been working with the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management in northern California, Oregon and Washington since July.
However, according to Donald Meyers, a reporter for the Yakima Herald-Republic in Washington, the two volunteers were mistakenly shot at.
"These two men were hunting a bear, the bear was wounded, they were going after it and firing in the direction of the bear which happened to be in the direction of a firefighting team," Meyers told Melbourne's 3AW this morning.
'It prompted a fire incident management team to order a full shutdown with everybody sheltering until they could sort this whole thing out."
While it is legal to hunt bears in the state, Meyers said it was very unusual to be hunting during wildfires, especially when the area was closed off to the public.
Despite reports of the two hunters being arrested over the incident which also involved two local officers, Meyers confirmed no charges have been laid.
"I can tell you I found no evidence of any charges being filed in the federal courts. Just a few minutes ago I went through and checked all the federal court filings for the past month," he told the talkback radio station.
The Sydney Morning Herald confirmed one of the Australian firefighters Daniel Barwick, an RFS volunteer who last year was awarded a National Medal for protecting the Lake George area, near Canberra.
"We are aware of the incident which occurred in August involving one of our firefighters, and we are happy the matter was dealt with by authorities in country," an RFS spokesman told Fairfax Media.
The other Australian involved was an employee of Fire & Rescue NSW.
One of the local officers is understood to have used his phone to record a last message to his family, but Meyers said there have been no reports of this.
It is understood all four managed to find cover and were later safely flown out of the area.
There was some concern that disclosure of the incident in Australia would lead to calls for the firefighters to be withdrawn, but guarantees of safety put in place by US authorities led the contingent to remain.
News.com.au has reached out to Fire & Rescue NSW for comment.