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DOC Fire Fighters Get Ministerial Citations

DOC Fire Fighters Get Ministerial Citations For Leading Local Crews Battling Huge Wildfires In The US

Minister of Conservation Hon. Sandra Lee and United States Ambassador H.E. Carol Moseley Braun joined today to thank the five Department of Conservation fire fighters who led local crews battling huge wildfires in Montana recently.

The five were presented with ministerial citations in a special ceremony at the Beehive in Wellington.

“I'm proud of your efforts, and I want to thank you for sharing your skills and experience with your United States counterparts,” Ms Lee told the five DOC fire fighters.

“There has been a long history of contact between our rural fire fighting agencies, but this was the first occasion we were able to give hands-on support to another country battling massive fires.”

Ambassador Moseley Braun said the DOC firefighters were "true lifesavers.... I feel a bit like my house was on fire and I ran next door to ask the neighbour to come bring a hose and a bucket of water."

"We appreciate that you had to fly all the way across the Pacific to come to our aid. Your efforts stand as an example of the warm, neighbourly relationship that exists between the United States and New Zealand."

"When it comes time to fight forest fires in New Zealand, I hope you find your experience in the United States valuable."

The five DOC fire fighters who received citations today were:
 John Sutton, from the Rangitaiki Area in the Bay of Plenty;
 Trevor Mitchell, from the East Coast/Hawkes Bay region;
 Jock (Grahame) Darragh, of Wellington;
 Tony Teeling, of Canterbury; and
 Richard McNamara, from Twizel, in South Canterbury.

The DOC team acted as fire line managers at the coal face of the fires in the Northern Rockies, controlling aircraft operations and providing advice on fire behaviour predictions.

They joined five other New Zealanders and 69 Australians who departed for the United States within nine days of the original request for help.
The United States’ National Interagency Fire Centre paid their travel costs. Ambassador Moseley Braun travelled to Auckland to meet the firefighters' plane on their return from the United States on 21 September.

Ms Lee said the DOC fire fighters were in Wellington today for a debrief to learn from their United States experiences, and to discuss ideas to improve the way DOC fights fires in New Zealand.


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