More New Zealand firefighters, including three from Taupō, have been sent to Australia to help battle the wildfires ravaging Queensland.
Twenty-one New Zealand firefighters flew from Auckland to Australia today to help fight the wildfires that have been raging in the state for the past nine weeks.
More than 60 fires have been tearing through New South Wales and Queensland.
Pumicelands deputy principal rural fire officer Roger Nelson and two fellow firefighters from Taupō were crossing the ditch today to help out.
The trip was the third Nelson had made to fight bushfires in Australia in the last three years.
The crews were expecting to see the worst in the "fairly extreme" conditions, he said.
He could feel a sense of trepidation among the firefighters due to the height of flames and the devastation the fires have already caused.
Australia and New Zealand fire crews were like "one big family" and lending a hand to their brothers and sisters in need were crucial, Nelson said.
The eucalyptus forests in Australia burn very differently to the pine-based forests here, he said, so the local firefighters would be constantly learning.
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They were due to arrive in Brisbane this afternoon and will spend the next day being debriefed on the hazards, wildlife and terrain they will face.
Nelson was looking forward to the "fire camp" tent accommodation they would be living in for the next fortnight.
Fire Emergency New Zealand's national manager for response capability Paul Turner said the Kiwi contingent of six three-person crews, two taskforce leaders and a liaison officer would begin their operations tomorrow.
These crews are in addition to the six New Zealand Fire and Emergency personnel already in New South Wales helping with air attack, heavy machinery, safety, and deployment co-ordinations, he said.
Tony Gillard, Pumicelands' eastern zone deputy rural fire officer, said among the six Kiwi personnel was one from Rotorua who had been in New South Wales for about a week, and was due to fly back to New Zealand in a couple of days.
Gillard said the three Taupō personnel and the other 18 from other parts of the country would be initially be involved in two rotations of about 14 days.
Of the 21 personnel, there was one liaison officer, two taskforce leaders and the rest were firefighters, he said.
Large wildfires have been burning in both Queensland and New South Wales for the past nine weeks.
As at November 11 there were 50 active bushfires in Queensland and a state of fire emergency has been called.
"Fighting fires of this magnitude is a hugely demanding task and we're happy to provide support to our Australian colleagues," Turner said.
"They're tough firefighting conditions over there at the moment. The hot, very dry and windy conditions are causing extreme wildfire behaviour."
The New Zealand crews will be operating in North Queensland.
"They'll be working up to 14-hour shifts for two five-day rotations and will have a rest day between the rotations and a travel day on either side," Turner said.
"Deploying overseas is a valuable development opportunity for those involved and gives them experience in different environments that they can bring back here.
"Over the past 19 years we've deployed 986 people overseas; 140 in the past 12 months to Australia. Since 2000 we have deployed 26 times to Canada, USA and Australia."