New Zealand firefighters helping battle blazes in Queensland
Twenty-one New Zealand firefighters are departing for Australia today (Tuesday 12 November) to help fight the wild fires that have been raging in Queensland for the past nine weeks.
The New Zealand contingent of six three-person crews, two taskforce leaders and a liaison officer will begin operations on Wednesday.
These crews are in addition to the six New Zealand Fire and Emergency personnel already in New South Wales assisting with air attack, heavy machinery, safety and deployment coordination.
Large wildfires have been burning in both Queensland and New South Wales for the past nine weeks.
As of yesterday there were 50 active bushfires in Queensland and a state of fire emergency has been called.
"Fighting fires of this magnitude is a hugely demanding task and we’re happy to provide support to our Australian colleagues," says Paul Turner, National Manager Response Capability, Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
"They’re tough firefighting conditions over there at the moment. The hot, very dry and windy conditions are causing extreme wildfire behaviour."
The New Zealand crews will be operating in North Queensland. They’ll be working up to 14 hour shifts for two five-day rotations. There will be a rest day between the rotations and a travel day on either side.
"Deploying overseas is a valuable development opportunity for those involved and gives them experience in different environments that they can bring back here," says Paul Turner.
Over the past 19 years we’ve deployed 986 people overseas; 140 of them in the past 12 months to Australia. Since 2000 we have deployed 26 times to Canada, USA and Australia.