Kiwi firefighters to return to Australia

Whangarei Rural Fire and Department of Conservation (DOC) employee Clea Gardiner (C) pictured at Auckland International Airport with her fellow team members before flying out. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Whangarei Rural Fire and Department of Conservation (DOC) employee Clea Gardiner (C) pictured at Auckland International Airport with her fellow team members before flying out. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Dozens of New Zealand firefighters will return to Australia tomorrow to help in the battle against bushfires in remote areas of Victoria.

National Rural Fire Officer Murray Dudfield said the team of 44 would be the country's second-largest deployment of rural firefighters.

The largest, 109 firefighters, was deployed to Victoria in 2009.

"The forest and land management firefighters in Victoria are feeling the strain of almost two months of hard, hot, difficult work,'' Mr Dudfield said..

"Our guys are fresh and raring to go and will help give the locals a break. The team has been chosen for their fitness, chainsaw and controlled burning skills along with their ability to live out in the open.''

Over their 16-day deployment, the firefighters would continue the work to contain the large bushfires burning in the Gippsland area.

The team was made up of the National Rural Authority New Zealand liaison officer, Kerry Hilliard, a taskforce leader, two sector supervisors, and 40 rural firefighters of which half were from the Department of Conservation and half from the forestry sector.

They had been chosen from areas that were unlikely to face a fire risk within the next few weeks, Mr Dudfield said.

In January, 13 firefighters were sent to help fight bushfires in remote areas of Tasmania.

"This deployment is a reflection of the strong relationship New Zealand fire authorities have built with their Australian counterparts over the years to share training, knowledge, and research and provide assistance to each other when needed,'' Mr Dudfield said.

- APNZ

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