Kiwi firefighters to give relief

Last updated 08:00 16/02/2013

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The heat is on for three Manawatu men deployed to Australia to help battle bush fires.

Pohangina's Kerry Hilliard, a consultant for the National Rural Authority New Zealand, has been selected as liaison officer for a team of 44 people, including 20 firefighters each from the Department of Conservation (DOC) and forestry sector.

Mr Hilliard, who was the national fire co-ordinator for DOC until he retired about 18 months ago, said the firefighters in the group were all "fighting fit".

The team will relieve firefighters in Gippsland, Victoria, for 16 days.

Among them are Manawatu Rangitikei DOC biodiversity rangers John "JJ" Rasmussen, who is also a rural fire manager, and Stephen "Nobby" Robson. It will be Mr Robson's third such trip overseas, and Mr Rasmussen's first.

The main challenge would be the high temperatures and difference in vegetation, Mr Hilliard said. Crews of five would work 12-hour shifts, which could be stretched out to 18 hours.

A group of 13 was sent to Tasmania in January to help fight fires.

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- Manawatu Standard

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