Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Kiwi firefighters poised to help Australian counterparts

This aerial photo shows homes destroyed by a wildfire between Dunalley and Boomer Bay, east of the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, Australia. Photo / AP
This aerial photo shows homes destroyed by a wildfire between Dunalley and Boomer Bay, east of the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, Australia. Photo / AP

New Zealand firefighters are poised to help their Australian counterparts should they require support battling huge bushfires across Tasmania.

The fires have destroyed over 100 properties and continue to ravage the island state.

New Zealand National Rural Fire Authority spokesman Murray Dudfield said it had not yet received a request for help.

"If we do get one of course we would action a deployment over there,'' he said. "If it's a prolonged event they may well ask us for assistance.''

Had it not been for the recent Tropical Cyclone Evan, which caused havoc in Fiji and Samoa and also brought heavy rains to New Zealand, there would have been a far greater risk of bushfires breaking out here because of the hot, dry weather last week.

"Our fire danger levels would have been very, very high. In actual fact they would have been extreme, so we've been fortunate in respect of getting some rain as a result of that cyclone,'' he said.

A Department of Conservation spokeswoman said it was prepared to provide staff to go to Australia as part of a team led by the New Zealand National Rural Fire Authority.

It was initially feared that dozens may have died in the fires, but police have now searched 245 houses and not located any bodies.

However, Tasmania Police Inspector John Arnold said "it may be a possibility down the track''.

Bushfires are also burning in the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and New South Wales and South Australia is bracing itself for the worst bushfire conditions in years.

The Australian Associated Press reported that temperatures in New South Wales tomorrow were forecast to climb up to 45C - the third highest temperature on record for the state.

- APNZ

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