Five firefighters from Hawke's Bay have been recruited for a national contingent set to help Canadian forces fight wildfires in British Columbia.
Having spent much of the summer battling blazes throughout Hawke's Bay, the local team have now embarked on the "chance of a lifetime", principal rural fire officer for Hawke's Bay Trevor Mitchell said.
"It's essentially full time fire fighting which is experience that you don't get in New Zealand. Working on large fires with large management teams and a lot of people so it's an awesome experience for them."
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Deputy principal rural fire officers Tim Allan of Wairoa and Allison Ludlow of Waipawa were joined by Hastings rural fire volunteers Hamish Hanara, Owen Taumua and Kevin Hodges for the trip and flew out of Auckland on Sunday evening, bound for Vancouver.
The Hawke's Bay posse joined an 81-strong team of Kiwi firefighters set to join Canadian forces for five weeks under an agreement, inclusive of Australia and the United States, to share firefighting resources in times of need.
As of last week more than 100 fires were burning out of control, leaving more than 1.2 million hectares destroyed by fire.
"The fires in British Columbia are the largest they've had in years. I think the largest fire over there is 100,000 hectares so the fires are massive and they essentially burn right through to winter but they try and protect the areas at risk," Mr Mitchell said.
Working to a 12 day roster, the troops will have just two days off between every 12 days working and gain critical work experience to bring back to Hawke's Bay, he said.
"The big advantage of going to Canada is that the Canadians fight fires exactly the same way as we do in New Zealand and use the same equipment, whereas the United States and Australia are quite different."
The senior firefighter said the US and Australia used different systems and techniques, and used dry firefighting techniques such as digging out firebreaks with bulldozers or by hand.
"The Canadians are very much like us, they use helicopters and water and pumps."
Having gone on numerous deployments himself, he said those sent ranged from very experienced to less experienced which helped build up the local skill base.
"They were excited and apprehensive. Tim was pretty much okay because he's been there before but for the rest of them it's all a new experience and a chance of a lifetime really."