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Updated: Three U.S. firefighters killed while battling Australia's wildfires identified

The victims were crew members on an air tanker, and all three were military veterans

(Mark Evans/Getty Images)

Note: This story has been updated to include the identities of the American heroes lost in the tragedy.

Three American firefighters were killed in Australia on Wednesday while fighting the country's ongoing wildfires, when the air tanker they were flying in crashed.

The fallen heroes have been identified as Captain Ian McBeth of Great Falls, Montana; First Officer Paul Clyde Hudson of Buckeye, Arizona; and Flight Engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr. of Navarre, Florida.

What are the details?

The victims were crew members on Tanker 134, a Lockheed C-130 Hercules that was carrying retardant when it went down in New South Wales. Canadian-based private company Coulson Aviation, the owner of the aircraft, confirmed the tragedy in a news release.

Late Thursday evening, Coulson provided an update releasing the names of the victims and expressing condolences to the loved ones of the three men.

McBeth previously served as a member of the Wyoming Air National Guard and was still a member of the Montana Air National Guard while working for Coulson. He is survived by his wife, Bowdie, and their three children, Abigail, Calvin, and Ella.

Hudson was a graduate of the Naval Academy and served 20 years in the United States Marine Corps before retiring as a decorated lieutenant colonel. He is survived by his wife, Noreen.

DeMorgan served 18 years in the United States Air Force and had racked up more than 4,000 hours as a flight engineer. Nearly half those hours were spent in a combat environment. He is survived by his two children, Lucas and Logan.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the U.S. Forest Service first confirmed the tragedy in an email on Thursday. "The wildland firefighting community is a family and when there is a loss it is felt throughout the entire organization," the email said. "We extend our deepest sympathy to the families of the fallen."

New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said during a press conference, "Initial reports are that there was a large fireball associated with the impact of the plane as it hit the ground. Unfortunately, all we've been able to do is locate the wreckage and the crash site. We have not been able to locate any survivors," NBC News reported.

Coulson Aviation has contracted for several years with New South Wales to assist with battling bushfires, and Fitzsimmons said the victims of Thursday's crash were known by local firefighters as well as crews back in the U.S.

"Our hearts are with all of those who are suffering what is the loss of three remarkable, well-respected crew that have invested so many decades of their life into firefighting and fire management," Fitzsimmons added.

The office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statement saying that the state's own CAL FIRE "worked and trained with the crew of Tanker 134."

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