Date: 04 March 2009
As the first New Zealand contingent of fire fighters return from the Australian bush, a team of staff from the local Department of Conservation offices are deploying to fire ravaged Victoria, in an effort to help fight the huge fires which have swept through the state in the last few weeks.
The DOC team with their counterparts
from NZ Forest Managers
Five staff from the Tongariro Taupo Conservancy will join the ongoing effort after heading across the Tasman today along with another local team from New Zealand Forest Managers.
Made up of Bubs Smith (team leader) and Dean Corrigan from Ruapehu Area Office, Gareth Chapman and Chris Barret from the Turangi/Taupo Area Office, and Angela Paget from the local Conservancy office, the team are all experienced firefighters, and are looking forward to the challenges ahead. As they packed their gear a common theme which emerged from discussions was a desire just to ‘get over there and help out, the anzac spirit really’. Even though none have had previous experience fighting bush fires in Australia, the whole team are excited about the challenges ahead. For Angela it will be her first trip out of New Zealand, let alone an overseas fire deployment, so it will present a whole new set of experiences quite apart from the fires. “I am really keen to see all the different wildlife we will encounter while we are there. Even having to check your boots every morning for spiders will be new.”
Local Department of Conservation staff were most recently deployed to Australia during the bush fires of 2006/07, and DOC firefighter John Mytton says there is a great deal to learn when you first arrive. “We spent the first week with an Aussie crew before getting our own section, and the biggest thing to get used to is the lack of water.” The size of the fires combined with the lack of water means more defensive techniques are used, with controlled burn-off being a significant weapon to contain the spread of the fire front. “Instead of attacking the fire, we lit more fires than we put out, which is very different from back home” says John.
Despite the potential risks involved, the team say they are not fazed by that. “Risk is a part of life” says Bubs, “managing that risk and being in a position to make a difference for people is what is important for us”. Looking forward to long, hot, hard days in the Aussie outback may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this dedicated group are keen to help out those communities in Victoria who have been worst effected by this summer’s fires, and we wish them all the best for a safe trip.
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