A group of local firefighters are heading overseas to help the firefighting efforts in Tasmania.

The group leaves tomorrow and is part of a deployment of two taskforces (43 firefighters and liaison staff) to help combat bushfires.

Among the 11 from the wider Rotorua area are Andi Uhl, the owner of Okere Falls Store, Roi Toia, a self-employed carver, and Tyler Fox, a self-employed tourism operator.

The additional deployment is in response to Tasmania's Fire Authorities seeking further assistance, and will take over from two New Zealand taskforces, which are due to return home on February 16.


National rural fire officer Kevin O'Connor said the firefighters would fly out from Auckland and Christchurch to begin the three-week deployment.

He said crews already there were making good progress building containment lines around the fires, and their Tasmanian counterparts were appreciative of the Kiwis' efforts. The incoming deployment would initially concentrate on containing fires around Arthur River in Tasmania's northwest, where bushfires were threatening local communities. Nearly 75 fires are burning throughout Tasmania, most started by lightning strikes and fuelled by drought conditions and strong winds. To date 110,212ha of land has been burnt.

Tomorrow's deployment will be the 18th overseas by rural firefighters since 2001 - and the 10th to Australia.

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