Las Vegas fire specialist helping in Australia

A public lands wildfire rehabilitation specialist from Las Vegas is one of several experts the U.S. government has dispatched to help in the deadly fires that have burned vast areas of Australia and have killed 189 people.

Nora Caplette of the Bureau of Land Management's burned area emergency rehabilitation team was expected to have arrived Monday in Australia, said Chris Delaney, assistant fire management officer at the BLM's Las Vegas field office.

He said Caplette will assess burned areas to develop strategies for preventing soil erosion to reduce the risk of mudslides in the aftermath of the fires.

Caplette is a forester, he said. She is one of 29 experienced wild-land firefighters who Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is sending to Australia's fire-ravaged Victoria state.

Also, the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent 31 wild-land firefighters to assist at the request of the state of Victoria.

The United States is filling the request with two 13-member burned area rehabilitation teams; a fire suppression crew of 20; three planning chiefs; four operations chiefs, three logistics chiefs; a public affairs officer and three liaison officers.

The Interior Department responders consist of 18 from the BLM, five from the National Park Service, three from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and three from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Australia will reimburse the U.S. government for all expenses including salaries, according to a statement Friday from Salazar.

"Australia is experiencing an unprecedented wildfire season due to record high temperatures, drought, high wind and low humidity," Salazar said.

"We are dispatching this help in response to an official request under our mutual assistance agreement with Australia. They have helped us many times to battle wildfires in the West and we are eager to demonstrate our gratitude and assist them at this critical time."

Contact reporter Keith Rogers at or 702-383-0308.