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Kiwi firefighters to help battle California blaze


Hon Rick Barker
Minister of Internal Affairs

10 July 2008
Media Statement

Kiwi firefighters to help battle California blaze

A contingent of New Zealand and Australian rural firefighters will soon be helping to tackle the wildfires in California, Internal Affairs Minister Rick Barker said today. The 40 strong group will include 8 Kiwi rural firefighters from the Department of Conservation, territorial authorities, and forestry companies.

"We have received a formal request for assistance from the National Interagency Fire Centre in the U.S and we are pleased to be able to continue the proud tradition of international support in wildfire fighting built up over the last decade," Mr Barker said.

New Zealand, Australia and the US are parties to mutual assistance agreements covering the provision of specialist wildfire fighting capability in times of need.

"The mutual assistance agreements work both ways – New Zealand provides additional capability at times of extreme fire conditions abroad and it is known that in a time of need New Zealand will receive the same support," Mr Barker said.

"The deployment will also give our firefighters the opportunity to develop skills and gain valuable experience that they can bring back home."

The deployment is expected to last for 5 weeks and will involve firefighters having to camp in sometimes remote conditions.

"I am always impressed by how quickly New Zealand firefighters are able to mobilise to assist internationally. Our firefighters are trained specifically for such deployments and there is never a shortage of men and women willing to help. They are trained to protect life and property in our communities and it is a great tribute to them that they make same commitment to protecting communities overseas, like those threatened by wildfire in the U.S.

"There is no doubt that our firefighters will be working in demanding conditions and I wish them and their families all the best. New Zealand firefighters are in high demand worldwide and I know that their contribution will be appreciated and their expertise put to good use," Mr Barker said.

In 2006, 29 New Zealand firefighters went to the U.S to help fight the wildfires ravaging the Pacific North West and more recently New Zealanders assisted with the fires in Victoria.


ENDS

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