NZ Firefighters To Return, But More Wanted

NZ Firefighters To Return, But More Wanted

03 March 2009

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New Zealand — About 40 New Zealand firefighters will return from Victoria this week, but Australia is asking for a second group to continue the battle. Most of the Kiwis will return home on Thursday, with about 15 staying for another week.

National rural fire operations manager Gary Lockyer said the Australians had requested a second group of similar size this week. Details of the second contingent would be released today.

The Kiwis in Australia have spent their time trying to control an 8130-hectare fire, part of which is burning the Yarra State Forest.

Speaking from the incident control centre in Woori Yallock yesterday, the New Zealand crew’s information officer, Alan Thompson, said the firefighters were bracing themselves for a difficult day today, with 100kmh winds forecast.

“That will stir up any embers still burning in the top of the trees up there. We will all be on full alert, with extra resources coming in from other areas of the state,” he said.

The Yarra State Forest was a major water catchment area for Melbourne, about 80km to the west. “These fires have seriously threatened the water supply and its continuity.”

The firefighters were looking forward to going home, but had enjoyed working in the area over the past month, Thompson said.

A North Canterbury police officer has left for Australia to help identify bushfire victims.

A police national headquarters spokesman, Grant Ogilvie, said Senior Constable Phil Simmons, of Kaiapoi, was part of a second team of disaster victim identification (DVI) specialists.

The DVI was established after the 2002 Bali bombings and had close links with its counterparts in Australia, Ogilvie said.

Simmons and two officers from Wellington would relieve the six staff from the national DVI team that had been in Victoria since February 11. The replacement team left yesterday and would stay in Victoria until March 25, Ogilvie said.

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