Almost a year ago to the day Northland firefighter Mike Sullivan was fighting a 133 hectare fire at Pipiwai.

Now he's leading a team of 21 firefighters heading to Tasmania to fight a growing number wildfires burning across 20,000 hectares.

Five of the firefighters in his team are from Whangārei, and also work for Forest Protection Services. They are joined by firefighters from Fire and Emergency, the Department of Conservation and Timberlands Limited, a forestry company near Rotorua.

Forest Protection Services' owner Kevin Ihaka said a team of eight incident management personnel left yesterday and the team of firefighters fly out today .


Ihaka said at this stage it is not known how long they will be away for.

"Tasmania is pretty steep and rugged. It's definitely not pumps and hoses country, it's chainsaws and hand tools."

Ihaka said the firefighters will face long days, hot conditions and hard to access land.

He said the crew were physically fit.

Ihaka said the conditions were what they train for and it's a "sought-after challenge" in their industry. He said the firefighters were "pretty excited and proud to be going".

Ihaka said two of the firefighters heading over from Northland are Canadians who are here as part of a Canadian exchange programme. One of them is a woman, who is in her second season in Northland.

The Canadians' skills will be put to good use in Tasmania. Ihaka said the crews will be helicoptered in and out of locations which "sits well with the Canadian way of doing things".

Fires have been burning since late December, mainly in the southwest of the island state, following a heatwave and period of lightning strikes and high winds.


The Gell River region experienced more than 4000 ground impacting lightning strikes on January 14 and 15 that started more than 70 fires, 50 of which are ongoing.

High wind last weekend is expected to be followed by extreme temperatures this week.

It is the 23rd time New Zealand fire personnel have been deployed overseas since 2000, the 12th time to Australia and third time to Tasmania.