New Zealand firefighters join battle against blazes in Victoria

New Zealand firefighters will be joining their counterparts in Australia to help battle fires in Victoria that have destroyed around 120 homes and over 2000 hectares of land in the area.

Twenty-three firefighters from the country’s rural fire authorities flew to Australia yesterday to assist.

National Rural Fire Officer Kevin O'Connor said firefighters from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch left yesterday afternoon and will begin work today around the coastal town of Lorne, 150 kilometres southwest of Melbourne.

120 homes in the area have already been destroyed by fire, and more homes and infrastructure are under threat.

Mr O’Connor said drought conditions and moderate winds were fuelling fires around Lorne and further along the Great Ocean Road south of Melbourne.

“Our firefighters will be containing fires around some of the townships and working to protect homes and other buildings in these towns.”

2,500 hectares of land along a 40 kilometre front has been destroyed as a result of fires started by lightning strikes late last month in dense forest.

The fires are threatening Great Otway National Park, the Mount Cowley tower and some water supply catchments, including those for Barwon and Lorne.

A further 22 firefighters will be sent to Australia on the 11th of January to bolster New Zealand’s contribution.

The deployments are expected to last three weeks, with a possible extension depending on conditions, which are currently extreme in Victoria’s southern coastal areas.

The firefighters are drawn from rural fire authorities around the country, including staff from Department of Conservation and forestry companies.

“Working conditions will be arduous, with steep and inaccessible terrain, plus high temperatures. Numerous aircraft are currently working on the fires.”