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OVENS, Australia — It was a rare victory for the seasoned Americans battling flames Down Under.
Beneath a green eucalyptus canopy in the country’s Australian Alps, the continent’s tallest mountain range dividing New South Wales and Victoria, some of America’s most versatile firefighters, mostly from Southern California, are laboring to help the Australians gain the upper hand against their worst fire season ever.
The work, up until Saturday afternoon, had not always been fruitful for these two dozen firefighters, nearly all of them from the Angeles National Forest. Weekly lightning storms have sparked new fires beyond their defensive positions, and even some older fires have spread so quickly they have outrun crews finishing containment lines.
But that afternoon, word crackled over the radio that a containment line they’d dug days before had held up, stopping another blaze’s progress. It was their first success since arriving in Australia on Jan. 8.