Regional | Australia

NZ Firefighters answer Australia’s call for help

New Zealand firefighters will join the battle against more than 50 bushfires burning out of control in New South Wales. 3 people have reportedly lost their lives, 600 schools have closed and a state of emergency has been declared in parts of southeast Australia.

A blessing to protect New Zealand firefighters departing to help with the wild bush fires in Australia.

The New Zealand Fire Service Māori Advisor Piki Thomas told Te Ao, “The Toka-mauri ceremony is significant and specific to us in New Zealand. Our service personal see many incidents and accidents in our field of work. It also acknowledges those we’ve lost to traumatic situations. So it’s about embracing well-being in our work.”

Twenty-one servicemen stepped up to answer Australia’s call for help.

Ruapehu’s Principal Rural Officer Nathan Jones gave a brief description of their plans, “So we’re gonna do a 5 day on, 1 day off, 5 days on and then home again. We’ll be expected to work 12-14 hours days while we’re over there. In super-hot, 36 degrees, dry-dusty and hot temperatures. Previously some days there I’ve drunken up to 4-5 liters of fluid on the fire-line. So we’re putting in the hard yards.”

For Ngāi Tahu's Tim Clarke it will be his first international deployment, “Yeah pretty good. I was on the waiting list to go to Canada in the last Canada deployment, just over a year ago. I was the last team to go, they didn’t need extras so I missed out on that trip. So really looking forward to this one.”

Many of the team's whānau will be anxious to see these firefighters depart but new technology may give them a little peace of mind.

“Forgein emergency is really good and really helpful for the whānau. We carry Garmin inReaches so every 30 minutes all our crews will ping a satellite point back home so we can track where everyone is. Then we send messages back via that service as well, saying hey we’re alright. If there is something going on we can get a message out straight away no matter where we are in Australia,” says Jones.

The team will stay in Australia for 11-days and if the situation worsens our emergency services are working on a contingency plan.