Kiwi firefighters in Tasmania regroup

Last updated 19:54 13/01/2013

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New Zealand's fire fighting contingent in Tasmania are about to join forces to battle a blaze in the centre of the island that threatens to create more havoc if high winds buffet the region as predicted this week.

The two six-member crews from Northland and Nelson separated after their welcome briefing but will regroup to battle a blaze at Lake Repulse north of Hobart that has already laid waste to 11,000 hectares.

One team was dispatched to the fire front once they were kitted out last week, while the other ventured to Burnie near the northwest tip of the island to tackle an outbreak at Montumana.

Strong winds forced Kiwis at the Lake Repulse to abandon that assignment on Friday and divert to the Tasman Peninsula and another pre-existing bushfire at Forcett but they will return to the heavily forested area tomorrow.

New Zealand National Rural Fire Authority team leader John Barnes said the Department of Conservation staff and forestry workers were needed at Lake Repulse to construct fire breaks in anticipation of high winds fanning flames from Thursday onwards.

"It's important they get on to that and knock it down before this wind event comes," he said.

The New Zealanders are scheduled to have a rest on Wednesday and Thursday in Hobart before gearing up for the final push of their 16-day secondment.

So far the crews have emerged unscathed from their ordeal and Barnes said the feedback had been positive from their Tasmanian counterparts - and locals.

"They're pretty happy, they've been well fed. The locals have gone out of their way to look after them."

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