New Zealand/Australia– Taranaki’s top rural fireman has answered the call to provide support to battle the bush fires which have ravaged parts of Australia.
Nigel Dravitzki, who has been Taranaki’s principal rural fire officer since 2013, will head to Melbourne on Friday. He will be stationed in a command centre especially set up to co-ordinate the efforts of front-line firefighters to manage the ongoing fire risk in Victoria.
With backing from the National Rural Fire Authority and his regional colleagues, Dravitzki is the only Taranaki fire officer to head across the ditch to provide relief for their Australian counterparts.
At the moment, 44 firefighters from throughout New Zealand are helping out but half of that contingent are due to return home shortly, Dravitzki said.
The overseas posting was a first for Dravitzki, who was expecting the role to be a busy one.
“I’m predicting they will be long days,” he said.
The area which Dravitzki will help monitor is the Wye River in Victoria. More than 110 homes were lost in this area alone on Christmas Day.
He said the team, which includes a mix of New Zealand and Australian firefighters, were currently building large containment lines in the area to ensure fires were not able to spread and threaten other property
Dravitzki described the work as “arduous” and said those on the front-line were working 14-16 hours in steep terrain, carrying heavy equipment as well as battling hot weather conditions and insects.
As part of his duties he will be in regular communication with the fire teams while also managing information coming into the centre about weather conditions.
While the environment and behaviour of bush fires was different to conditions in New Zealand, the expertise needed to battle them was the same.
“It’s still rural firefighting,” the father-of-three said.
Dravitzki will be in Melbourne until February 4 but there is a possibility his stay may be extended if a further contingent of firefighters was sent over from New Zealand.