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NZ firefighters return home, NSW and Victorian personnel head to Tasmania

22 January 2016

Half of the 46-strong group of specialist firefighters from New Zealand will fly home on Sunday after 3 weeks of backbreaking work on the Wye River fire.

The deployment has been undertaking very difficult groundwork in rugged bush north of Wye River, such as building containment lines with rakes, in remote and steep terrain.

The second half of the deployment group will continue their work until the of end next week, with return scheduled for Thursday, 4 February.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley commended both of the NZ crews for the outstanding support they provided to firefighters and the communities of the Otways.

“The skills of the New Zealand fire fighters are internationally recognised and I know the firefighters and the communities they worked with are extremely grateful for their support and camaraderie,” he said.

Wye River-Jamieson Creek Track Fire Incident Controller Alistair Drayton said it had been a privilege to work alongside the visitors.

“It’s been great to see the New Zealand firefighters working seamlessly with local crews, sharing knowledge and expertise to tackle what has been very difficult fire conditions,” he said.

The NZ crews were in addition to eight Incident Management personnel deployed from New South Wales.

The Wye River-Jamieson Creek Track fire has now been contained but efforts will continue in securing the fire and supporting communities through the recovery process.

Deployment of personnel to Tasmania
As the NZ contingent was preparing to return home, firefighters and strategic planning personnel from Victoria were preparing to deploy to Tasmania.

Tasmania Fire Service firefighters are battling 13 out of control fires and yesterday requested interstate assistance to help on the ground and in incident management.

Mr Lapsley said Tasmania had experienced the most significant summer fire season since the devastating 2013 fires.

He said while NSW would provide the bulk of resources, Victoria would coordinate the national response rather than send firefighting resources ahead of the peak of the State’s summer fire season.

“As we farewell those who came to help Victoria, now we stand ready to help Tasmania.”

While numbers are still being finalised, around nine strategic planning specialists from Victoria will help coordinate the deployment of around 100 NSW Rural Fire Service firefighters and 29 fire trucks.

NSW will also send 2 helicopters and Incident Management Team comprising 18 people.

The deployment is expected to begin arriving in Tasmania on Saturday.