Firefighters cross Tasman

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 12:59 04/02/2014

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A Marlborough man is leading a team of New Zealand rural firefighters sent to Australia to help battle bushfires in Victoria.

Trevor Tidey was appointed task force manager for a team of 23 firefighters which left Auckland yesterday for eastern Victoria.

Mr Tidey, a Waihopai Valley forestry contractor, is part of a national incident management team that can be deployed at short notice. He is leading the second contingent of New Zealand firefighters in Victoria as fires burn across the state.

Renwick Department of Conservation rural fire officer Ken Rodley left on Thursday with the first team from New Zealand. The second team includes a crew of five Marlborough rural firefighters led by Blenheim man Chris Hayles.

It is Mr Hayles third firefighting mission in Australia. He and a team of four Marlborough men joined New Zealand rural firefighters working in Victoria in February last year. He also spent three weeks in Victoria in 2009 fighting the Black Saturday bushfires that killed 173 people.

He spoke to the Express from Auckland Airport yesterday as the crew prepared to board a flight to Melbourne.

The team was being sent to the rural national park area of Gippsland in Eastern Victoria, but you never knew what could happen, he said.

"Things can change. Something can start tonight and you'll be sent there straight away. You never know where you'll end up."

The general size and type of fire they were dealing with was always a challenge, he said.

The team would most likely begin fighting fires tomorrow after an induction course and would stay about 20 days, he said.

Marlborough Kaikoura principal rural fire officer Richard McNamara said Marlborough was well represented among New Zealand firefighters in eastern Victoria.

National rural fire officer Murray Dudfield said fire forces from throughout Australia had been rotating in and out of Victoria for weeks.

"Victoria is going through one of its longest and most intense heatwaves," he said. "There are fires burning across the state and there has been little respite from the extreme hot weather."

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- The Marlborough Express

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