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First Kiwi back from USA wildfires

Media Release

First Kiwi back from USA wildfires

September 7, 2006

National Rural Fire Authority Manager John Barnes returns to New Zealand tomorrow after spending 35 days helping with some of the North West USA’s worst wildfires this century.

John was based at the USA National Interagency Fire Centre (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.

“At the time of arriving in the USA on August 4 the North West states were experiencing a wildland fire season which may well rival their devastating 2000, 2002, and 2003 fire seasons,” he says.

John led a two-person Australasian team which worked with the NIFC’s coordination group at Boise to determine what resources New Zealand and Australia could provide to assist with wildfire management.

“My role was to work with the NIFC to identify the required skill sets needed and liaison with the coordination group,” he says.

Soon after John’s arrival, the NIFC requested 50 mid-level fire managers from New Zealand and Australia. Ten of this group were from New Zealand and arrived in Boise on August 10.

At the time of their arrival the fire situation was challenging and potentially worsening. The total area burnt on August 10 alone was in excess of 250,000 hectares. Seventy-six structures had been destroyed and 14,500 people were involved in fire suppression activities.

“The current number of uncontrolled wildfires is 425 fires which have destroyed approximately 30,000 Hectares,” says John Barnes.

A request for a second deployment was made on August 21 for an additional 43 personnel. New Zealand provided a further 10 fire managers for this second deployment and they arrived in Boise on August 24.

The first deployment of 10 New Zealand personnel arrive back in New Zealand on September 18 after two 14-day assignments on wildfires with two rest days in between. At this stage the return date for the second New Zealand deployment is dependant on fire conditions but they will be back by October 1.

The fires continue to burn in many parts of the US North West, with weather conditions including strong winds and thunder storms hampering firefighting efforts.

“This is my third deployment to the USA and it is pleasing to be part of a New Zealand team which has been able to assist our counterparts in the USA with the management of their problem wildfires” says John Barnes.

John Barnes arrives back in Christchurch tomorrow morning.


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