Rescued Koalas Named After American Firefighters Killed In Plane Crash

Three koalas rescued from a bushfire-hit region of southern NSW have been named after the American airmen who were killed in a nearby firefighting plane crash. 

As the nation recovers from the bushfire crisis, animal hospitals, wildlife agencies, volunteers and even universities continue to rescue animals from the fire grounds.

The Australian National University (ANU) is taking in and caring for displaced and injured koalas in a makeshift "5-star hotel" on campus in Canberra.

The uni currently has 11 koalas in its care from various fire grounds in the region. But researcher Dr Karen Ford said the animals "keep arriving".

"There is nowhere else that has the facilities to hold these animals or this many at the moment," she said.

The Australian National University is housing displaced and injured koalas. Image: Supplied

Ford, who is running the makeshift hospital, said a couple of the koalas are being treated for burns injuries, while the rest are "quite skinny" after coming from completely burnt out habitats.

The uni, alongside wildlife agency Two Thumbs Wildlife Trust, named three of the animals after the American aerial firefighters tragically killed in an air tanker crash in the Snowy Mountains region last week.

Captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Clyde Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr were killed when their water-bombing tanker crashed northeast of Cooma on January 23.

Captain Ian McBeth, First Officer Paul Hudson and Rick DeMorgan Jr were killed in the crash. Image: Coulsson Aviation

The three koalas -- named Ian, Paul and Rick -- were found in the same region.

Devastated family and friends honoured the men's extraordinary courage and service at a memorial service at the Richmond RAAF base on Thursday.

Families were presented with a NSW Commissioner's Commendation for Service. Image: NSW RFS

Captain McBeth's father, Bill, struggled to contain his grief.

"A few minutes ago the chaplain asked us to describe Ian in a few words. His wife Bowdie, who loved him dearly, said he was 100 percent. A 100 percent man," he said.

As a father I would describe Ian as the most courageous, audacious, capable, competent and caring man that I ever knew. He had an impact on everyone whose lives he touched.

The trio were posthumously awarded a commissioner's commendation for service by the NSW Rural Fire Service.

RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the NSW bushfire crisis would have been worse if not for their remarkable individual contributions.

"It's been a truly traumatic season in NSW," he said.

"Without dwelling on the enormity of loss, what I do need to say is that loss would've been considerably worse if not for the thousands of men and women on the front line, and these special aviators that look after them from above."



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