Regional | Aboriginal

Māori set to fight fire with fire

The Australia bushfire death toll has risen to four as a result of more than 100 bushfires raging across two states. On Tuesday New Zealand deployed two firefighter crews to Queensland. A second call for assistance has come through with New Zealand Forestry Protection Service preparing to deploy teams with expertise in fire protection.

Seven-teen-year-old Tama Hill from Ngāpuhi is the youngest member of the New Zealand Forestry Fire Protection team who are traveling to Australia to offer their support.

“It's pretty physical in fires, you've just gotta push through it. Your mental game has to be on,” says Hill.

The Manager of the Forrest protection services Kevin Ihaka shared with Te Ao News the details of the trip, “At the moment we've got a couple of deployment invitations or opportunities on the go. They're always last-minute confirmations but at this stage, we're looking at having 15 to 20 people away as of next week.”

Members of this team aren't fire fighters, they are fire managers who control burns to reduce fire hazards.

“When we move onto the wildfire situation we use the same sort of skills. The type of firefighting we do isn't in pumps and stuff generally it's about creating firebreaks with heavy machinery or hand cutting lines of chainsaws and then burning off from those lines. It's completely different techniques to what people would expect firefighting to be.”

Likened to the Aboriginal practices of fire control this team relies on their indigenous knowledge.

“Fire practices are a big part of a lot of indigenous cultures and that was a good tool to generate new growth and stimulate wildlife and a whole lot of other things. That's the way some of these environments have evolved and if we step in and continually try to put these fires out with bigger toys we risk the fact that we're gonna upset that balance.”

Hill says, “When they explain plans you always have to be on to the plan and if you don't understand it, always ask. You always have to know what's going on around the crew.”

The squad departs for Australia on Monday.