Overwhelming gratitude from Queenslanders.
That's how Taupō fireman Roger Nelson describes the reactions of people he met on a recent stint fighting bush fires in Australia. Crew leader of a three-man strike team, the Taupō deputy principal rural fire officer and strike team mates would go into town after work, wearing their Fire and Emergency New Zealand T-shirts.
"The local people in Gympie and Bundaberg were very grateful and thankful. People would come up to us and shake our hands and want to shout us coffee. We had chats with people all over the place."
• Volunteer Fire-Fighting – More Than Meets The Eye
• Brand new fire engine for Levin needs more firefighters
• Volunteer firefighters set to get $4 million recognition package from Government
• Premium - Revealed: South Auckland firebug is an ex-volunteer firefighter
Roger says most of the fire fighters were skilled volunteers from New Zealand and Australia, who had come to help out, "to the detriment of their own livelihood".
That included Roger's strike team mates Lui Brown from Timberlands and Ian Stretton a volunteer fire fighter with Lake Taupō Volunteer Fire Brigade. Filling the spare seat was Neville Barkhausen from the Canterbury High Country Fire Team.
Part of a 21-strong crew, Roger's team's role was to protect structures. They patrolled the fire, and blacked out along the edge of the fire by widening the control line using fire rakes and fire shovels. They also did some back-burning of eucalyptus tree forests.
While there were flames where they were working, Roger says the situations were well managed.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
"We try to do everything as safely as possible. Our priorities are people, including ourselves, property and then vegetation."
In one instance, the wind changed and the flames were heading towards people's properties. Roger said they managed to save one man's house, shed and water bore while 90 per cent of his property was burnt over.
Roger says the Aussies haven't hit their peak fire season yet. New Zealand fire fighters are due back soon, to provide local cover over the Christmas and New Year periods, "our highest fire days".
* The Taupō District is currently in a restricted fire season, with all fires in the rural and urban areas requiring a fire permit. To apply for a fire permit, go to www.checkitsalright.nz