WORRIED KIWIS: Some of the New Zealand firefighters from the samecrew as those who were injured Saturday fighting Australian bush fires. Photo: CRAIG SILLITOE/The Age
Australia — Three New Zealand firefighters seriously injured on Saturday,and eight others less seriously hurt, as they helped fight wildfires inAustralia, have been named by authorities.
National Rural Fire Officer Murray Dudfield said six of the elevenfirefighters were affected by burns and smoke inhalation and were hospitalised.
Those hospitalised with the most severe injuries are Barrie Hunt ofChristchurch who has serious burns to his hands, face and airway, John Tupura ofRotorua with serious burns to his arms, hands and face and Nick McCabe of Nelsonwith serious burns to his hands and face.
Mr Dudfield said the three other firefighters admitted to hospital were GlennStitchburn who suffered smoke inhalation, Tim Allen, burns to his face and handsand Lawrence Rangiwai burns to his arms. The three men were all from Gisborne.
Five other firefighters were taken to hospital and treated for a range ofless serious injuries and had since returned to crew accommodation.
They are Bruce Waddell of Nelson, Trevor Huggins of Invercargill, WayneLavery of Christchurch, James Britt-Foy of Nelson and Tony Kendrew of Gisborne.
Victorian fire authorities said the incident occurred in the Mount Terriblesector of the large fires currently affecting North-Eastern Victoria, Australiaat 2.30pm yesterday.
It involved 40 of the 47 strong contingent of New Zealand firefighters.
While fighting the main fire north east of the town of Mansfield innorth-east Victoria, the New Zealand crews noticed an ember-caused spot fireacross the road from the main fire.
They attempted to restrict the spread of this fire by creating a trail aroundit with hand tools, Mr Dudfield said.
“While involved in this work, they became aware that the main fire hadincreased in intensity, so they took evasive action.”
He said eleven of the firefighters decided they could not escape the fire andsought refuge as they had been trained to do.
Most of the remaining New Zealand firefighters were keen to return to thefire-fight as soon as possible.
He said those who were able were likely to be back on the fireline on Sunday.
Mr Dudfield said the situation the men were caught in was not unusual and hadalso happened in New Zealand on more than one occasion.
“It just shows what a dangerous situation these firefighters are in andthe speed and power of these fires.
“Our thoughts are with the men and their families.”
The fires have burned out more than 5500 sqkm of bushland in Victoria anarea more than twice the size of Luxembourg.
Another 22 homes have burned down in the island state of Tasmania since thebushfire emergency flared late last month.
More than 4000 firefighters in Victoria took advantage of cooler conditionson Saturday to clear bush, creating containment lines they hope will pen in theraging flames before the weather worsens towards the end of next week.
With one firefront stretching more than 250km, Victoria’s Country FireAuthority (CFA) warned the emergency was not yet over.
“There is still active fire we shouldn’t by any stretch of theimagination think that the fire is extinguished,” CFA deputy chief officerGraham Fountain said.
The sole fatality so far is horse trainer Donald Dosser, 48, who died when hefell off a vehicle on Thursday and was run over by a trailer as he helped fightfires at Gippsland, in Victoria’s southeast.
Police believe the fire he was battling, which has destroyed at least 15homes, was deliberately lit and sent arson investigators to the area on Saturdayto quiz locals.