US officials said Tuesday they\u2019re planning to send at least another 100 firefighters to Australia to join 159 already in the\u00a0country battling wildfires\u00a0that have killed 25 people and destroyed 2,000 homes.\r\nThe National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said that 90 firefighters including on-the-ground hand crews left in recent days to fight fires that have scorched an area twice the size of the US state of Maryland.\r\nAnother 100 American firefighters are expected to fly to Australia next week, said center spokeswoman Carrie Bilbao. It\u2019s the largest ever deployment of US firefighters abroad, she said.\r\nThe Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council requested the firefighters as part of a reciprocal deal that sent 138 Australians to fight US wildfires in 2018. The US has similar agreements with Canada, Mexico and New Zealand.\r\nOfficials are working to send the additional firefighters to Australia quickly so they can assume wildfire management and aviation management roles. The most recent contingent of firefighters dispatched to Australia included crews that fight fires on the ground, based in the US Forest Service\u2019s Angeles National Forest in California.\r\nBilbao said the next group will also include more ground crews and that they are receiving training about poisonous snakes and insects they might encounter while fighting wildfires in Australia.\r\n\u201cThey\u2019re there to work with Australia in any capacity needed,\u201d Bilbao said.\r\nThe National Interagency Fire Center directs the US\u2019s wildland firefighting forces, which include thousands of firefighters who work for the Forest Service and the US Department of the Interior and hundreds of aircraft. Their ranks can be stretched thin during the summer wildfire season, but officials can free them up during the winter to fight fires elsewhere.\r\nIt is summer in Australia, where the wildfires have been raging since September, fueled by drought and the country\u2019s hottest and driest year on record. Australia\u2019s fires started months earlier than normal.\r\n\u201cWe are proud to provide personnel from the United States and will continue to support Australia with the resources needed during this unprecedented fire situation,\u201d said US Forest Service Fire Director Shawna Legarza.\r\nThe US, Australia and New Zealand have been exchanging firefighters for more than 15 years. The last time the US sent firefighters to Australia was in 2010.\r\n\u201cAs the extreme fire danger continues across Australia, the Department of the Interior will continue to do all that we can to support requests for assistance,\u201d said Craig Leff, the Interior Department\u2019s Wildland Fire deputy director.