More rural firefighters off to Victoria

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 20/02/2013

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Another contingent of southern firefighters have headed across the Tasman to help fight fires in Victoria.

The five southern volunteers flew out of Invercargill Airport yesterday morning to help battle bushfires still burning in the state.

The group includes volunteers from Invercargill, Naseby, Tapanui and Blackmount.

Southern Rural Fire Authority principal rural fire officer Mike Grant said the men, who had all registered for deployment, would be part of a third wave of New Zealand reinforcements being sent to relieve firefighters on the front lines of the fires threatening homes in Victoria's west and east.

The latest team of volunteers would work alongside southern rural firefighters already in Victoria, he said.

Another group of five southern rural volunteers left Invercargill last week for Victoria and have been fighting fires in Gipps land in the state's east.

Rural firefighter Nelson Ede, of Naseby, who will lead the southern men as part of the New Zealand Rural Fire Authority deployment, said the team was ready to help.

"We've been called up to relieve the Australian firefighters who have been battling the fires for a long time in Victoria," he said.

"Our job will be to boost the numbers and give Australian authorities an opportunity to rest their firefighters."

Mr Ede, who is on his third deployment, said the southern firefighters could expect inhospitable terrain and fires on a much larger scale than those they may be used to.

"In New Zealand a lot of the extreme fire danger is very localised but in Australia everything is bigger.

"From reports, the terrain will be very steep, remote and in rugged country with a lot of gum trees that like to burn and are very hard to contain."

Blackmount rural firefighter David Coveney, who is on his first overseas deployment, said the operation would be a chance to help the Australian firefighters but would also be an opportunity to bring back new firefighting skills and experience to Blackmount.

Mr Coveney's wife, Vicki-Marie, also a volunteer firefighter, was at the airport to see her husband off and joked it would be good to have a break.

"As a volunteer firefighter I understand why he has been called up and he has my full support," she said.

"It's what we do."

The volunteers were expected to land in Melbourne yesterday afternoon where they would be briefed and receive last minute instructions before gearing up for two seven-day shifts on the front line.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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