Kiwi crews join Tasmania fire fight

06:23, Jan 10 2013
Tasmaniabush fire
A fire at Tasmania's Forcett, 30km from Hobart, sends smoke over Park Beach.
Tasmaniabush fire
Fire burning near Dodges Ferry, a small town in south eastern Tasmania.
Tasmaniabush fire
The settlement of Dunalley, about 40 kilometres east of Hobart, was one of the worst hit by the Tasmanian bush fires.
Tasmaniabush fire
Police Rescue Helicopter crewman Matthew Drumm looks out at the destruction.
Australia heatwave 2013
Exercise groups train at sunrise to beat the heat on Sydney's Bronte Beach as temperatures are expected to reach record highs.
Australia heatwave 2013
Water bombing at Oura, near Wagga Wagga. New South Wales faces its worst fire risk with temperatures predicted to hit the mid to high 40s.
Australia heatwave 2013
Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (C) at the State Operation Centre.
Australian heat
Kutchani, a female lion, eats a frozen milk iceblock at Sydney's Taronga Zoo.
Australian heatwave
Smoke rises from the Yarrabin bushfire burning out of control near Cooma, south of Canberra.
Australia heatwave
A bush fire burning near Cooma, south of Canberra.
clothesline
Singed clothes hang from a clothesline in a backyard affected by a bushfire at Boomer Bay, about 40 kilometres east of Hobart.
Australia heatwave
Fire crossing Princes Highway at Deans Gap fire in Shoalhaven, southern NSW.
Australia heatwave
A deserted petrol station, close to a fire south west of Wandandian, NSW.
Australia heatwave
NSW Rural Fire Service crews tackle a deliberately lit bushfire near Bidwill in Sydney's west.
Australia heatwave
Carngham Station, in Victoria, was destroyed in the state's bushfires.
Australia heatwave
A fireman working on flames near Ballarat, Victoria.
Australia heatwave
NSW Rural Fire Service crews water-bombing fires at Bungendore.
Australia heatwave
'Mopping-up" spot fires at Sandhills in Bungendore, Australia.
Australia fires
An aerial photo of the fire threatening the Siding Springs Observatory.
Australia fires
The fire moves in on the observatory in Siding Springs, in rural NSW.
Australia fires
The Siding Spring Observatory the morning after the fire swept through.
Australia fires
Several buildings at the Siding Spring Observatory were damaged.
Australia bushfires
A fire danger sign on the Hume Highway between Sydney and Melbourne gives a grim warning to locals.
NSW fire at Coonabarabran
Fire burns alongside the Newell Highway near Coonabarabran, about 350km northwest of Sydney.
Australia bush fires
A children's playground destroyed by the massive bushfire in rural New South Wales.
Australia bush fires
Robina and Felicity Otrupcek standing in front of Robina's home that was water-bombed and remained unscathed as fire burnt through the New South Wales property.
Australia bush fires
The changed landscape of Baradine Road at Coonabarabran, which was hit by one of New South Wales' worst bushfires in history.
victoria bush fires
Trying to keep cool at the Big Day Out in Sydney.
victoria bush fires
Crowds at Wanda Beach as temperatures begin to fall in Sydney.
victoria bush fires
Swimmers and sun bathers at Victoria Park Pool, in Sydney's Glebe.
victoria bush fires
Sydneysiders cool off in Botany Bay near Yarra Bay.
victoria bush fires
Frantic efforts to damp down properties as the fire approaches.
victoria bush fires
Firefighers battling a bushfire in Aberdare, New South Wales.
Ku-Ring-Gai
A fire burns in Ku-Ring-Gai National Park, north of Sydney.

New Zealand's fire fighting contingent have joined the effort to quell raging bushfires in Tasmania after absorbing the extent of the devastation - and the dangers they face - at a briefing in Hobart.

Shortly after being educated on the terrain and fire conditions they can expect to confront during a 16-day deployment, the two six-member teams from Northland and Nelson separated to  tackle blazes that spread unabated today in the island's centre and northwest.

One group headed to Lake Repulse inland from Hobart to try to  prevent flames spreading to the Mt Thunderbolt forestry reserve.

The blaze, ignited last week when a camp fire was left unattended, has destroyed more than 11,000 hectares of grassland although remote households have not yet been affected.

New Zealand National Rural Fire Authority rural fire manager John Barnes said the other group was  sent to Montumana, on Tasmania's northwest coast about five hours drive from Hobart, another serious flash point.

The Kiwis are accompanied by staff from Forestry Tasmania to ease their transition - the majority are encountering Australian fire conditions for the first time, including Northlander Clea Gardiner, the contingent's only female.

Barnes said the Department of Conservation staff and forestry workers were relishing the opportunity to relieve locals weary after battling multiple fire fronts since last week.

The New Zealanders were guided to the fire zones where they face a five day block of 12 hours shifts before resting for 48 hours.

Barnes said although the deployment ended after 16 days the New Zealanders may be asked to stay on or be redeployed to other bushfire-ravaged locations in Victoria or New South Wales.

They will either camp in tents or take advantage of homestead accommodation. They have also been warned to be vigilant  for snakes - medical kits include snake bite medication.

Although the heatwave enveloping Australia has eased in Tasmania, there was no cause for complacency as residents of the blackened community of Dunalley attempted to return home to assess the damage.

Over the past decade New Zealand rural fire fighters have regularly crossed the Tasman to assist their Australian counterparts. The largest continent, of 110, was dispatched to Victoria in 2009.

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