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New Zealand firefighters to help combat US wildfires


New Zealand firefighters to help combat US wildfires

21 August 2015

Fifteen firefighters from the country’s rural fire authorities will fly to the United States this weekend to help contain fires raging in four states of the country’s west and north.

National Rural Fire Officer Kevin O'Connor said the team would leave for Los Angeles on Sunday before transferring to the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise, Idaho, for a briefing and onward deployment to either Washington, Montana, California or Oregon.

A previous team of rural firefighters returned from a month-long deployment to Canada little more than a week ago.

Mr O’Connor said uncontained fires in Oregon and Washington have been burning more than 200,000 hectares in the past few days, while fires in California have burned nearly 50,000 hectares this year.

High temperatures, dry conditions and lightning strikes were hampering efforts by thousands of local firefighters and army volunteers.

Mr O’Connor said the team would be joined by 60 Australian firefighters.

Team members, drawn from rural fire authorities around the country, would provide frontline support to local firefighters.

“Their logistics skills will be in high demand, especially managing aircraft to fight fires and ferry supplies to remote locations.

“They are likely to be working in rugged, mountainous terrain, which will make for a demanding deployment, especially in the very high temperatures gripping those states at the moment.”

He said the two-week assignment could be extended by another two weeks depending on the success in containing the fires.

New Zealand firefighters have helped their counterparts in North America seven times in the past 15 years.

The team will fly out of Auckland on Sunday evening. A media briefing will be held at the domestic terminal’s Clubhouse room, starting at 4pm.

ends

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