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More Kiwi firefighters to be deployed to Victoria

20 December 2006

More Kiwi firefighters to be deployed to Victoria

The Victorian Department of Sustainability and Environment today made its second formal request for New Zealand firefighters, Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker and National Rural Fire Officer Murray Dudfield said today from Melbourne.

"The heat and vastness of the fires is difficult to comprehend. The fire front stretches 600 kilometres and covers 660,000 hectares, and the conditions facing firefighters are intense," said Rick Barker.

"Yesterday I met with the New Zealand firefighters at the frontline and can confirm they are doing New Zealand proud. They are really making a difference and can return to New Zealand on Saturday with their heads held high.

"Today I visited the New Zealand firefighters recovering from burns at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital with Victorian Premier Steve Bracks. They were positive and upbeat, and keen to get back into it to help their mates. I passed on a message from the Prime Minister thanking them for their efforts and wishing them a speedy recovery, and told them they were to be admired for their courage and commitment.

"The injured firefighters are expected to return home with their colleagues on Saturday.

"The fires have been burning for three weeks and the best-case scenario is that they will be under control in four weeks time. Victorian authorities are facing a major challenge sustaining their fight against the fires and their calls for additional assistance have been heard loud and clear.

"The Aussies are our neighbours and friends and helping each other in times of stress is what good mates do. I know that Australians would do the same for us should the roles ever be reversed," said Rick Barker.

"Forest and rural firefighters are being short listed at the moment and we are looking to send this second deployment over shortly after the New Year," said Murray Dudfield.

"New Zealand and Australia have a mutual assistance agreement covering the provision of fire fighting capability in times of need. Our firefighters are trained specifically for such deployments and there is never a shortage of firefighters willing to help their Australian colleagues," said Murray Dudfield.

ENDS

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