A Southland firefighter is heading to northern California today to help fight one of the most destructive wildfires in the state's history.

Hamish Angus, of Te Anau, is the only Fire and Emergency New Zealand-contracted firefighter being deployed from the Otago-Southland region, and he says it will be one of the biggest challenges in his 15 years as a firefighter.

''What's going on over there is well beyond the sort of thing we get here in New Zealand, thankfully, and by the sounds of it they're having some extraordinary weather,'' he said.

''I was in British Columbia last year when they had their record fire season and I'm expecting it to be much like that.''

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The Carr Fire, which has already claimed six lives, ignited last week outside Redding, about 240km north of Sacramento, and doubled in size over the weekend, forcing 38,000 people to flee their homes.

Mr Angus said the deployment, made up of about 40 Kiwi firefighters, would ease the workload for American firefighters who had been battling the blaze for days.

''Obviously they're fatigued and they're fairly resource-hungry so when we get over there, they'll slot us into a role that needs filling and we'll just get on with it.''

He said his feelings were a mix of ''trepidation and nervousness'', but also a bit of excitement for the experience.

''It's pretty horrific over there, it won't be enjoyable, that's for sure, but being involved in an operation like this helps us to upskill, and those skills can be utilised here in New Zealand.''

-By Sharon Reece