A contingent of New Zealand firefighting personnel is heading overseas, this time to help combat a growing number wildfires in Tasmania.

Fires have been burning since late December, mainly in the southwest of the island state, following a heatwave and period of lightning strikes and high winds.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand National Manager Rural Operations John Rasmussen says a seven-person team will fly out of Auckland at midday Tuesday 22 January followed by 21 remote area/arduous firefighters leaving on Wednesday 23 January.

“Our team of specialist, trained incident management personnel will be undertaking roles for planning, intelligence and aviation support across the state, while the firefighters will be flown into remote locations each day,” Mr Rasmussen says.

“These firefighters are going into extremely tough conditions. They must be physically and mentally fit enough to work in steep and remote areas, being flown in and out by helicopter. The conditions will be very hot and dry.”

The frontline fighters will be from Fire and Emergency New Zealand (five), the Department of Conservation (five) and forestry companies (11).

It is the 23rd time New Zealand fire personnel have been deployed overseas since 2000, the 12th time to Australia and third time to Tasmania.

Mr Rasmussen says the deployment highlights the high regard in which Fire and Emergency New Zealand personnel are held internationally, following the August 2018 deployments to Canada and the United States.

The New Zealand crews join others in Tasmania from South Australia.


About the Tasmanian fires:

  • The fires are burning across 20,000 hectares of steep, remote mountainous terrain, known as Gell River.
  • The Gell River region experienced more than 4,000 ground impacting lightning strikes on 14-15 January that ignited over 70 fires, 50 of which are ongoing.
  • After a windy weekend, the region expects extreme temperatures mid-week (22-24 January).

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