Hard work for Kiwis on front line of huge fires

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2014

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Southern firefighters battling massive bushfires in Australia are helping to build fire breaks with hand tools and bulldozers in remote country, a fire boss says.

Five rural southern firefighters, led by Warren Heslip, are among 2000 firefighters, including 42 from New Zealand, fighting massive blazes in Gippsland, rural Victoria.

National rural fire officer Murray Dudfield said they were cutting firebreaks with hoes, axes, chainsaws and bulldozers.

High winds and heat made it too dangerous for the firefighters to tackle the flames on Sunday, but they were back into it yesterday.

Living in tent camps, the southern firefighters travelled two hours a day to and from the fires and worked 12-hour shifts, he said.

They were doing hard work in remote country dominated by eucalypt forest.

Lightning strikes started the Victorian fires about a fortnight ago and many small fires had merged to form a massive fire covering between 10,000 and 20,000 hectares of state parks.

Rains forecast for the middle of this month were expected to help the firefighters, he said.

More than 10 houses had been destroyed but no lives had been lost. The southern firefighters were expected to work another week before going home.

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