A team of local volunteer firefighters has made a tough decision to leave their families for Christmas to help fight fires in the South Island.
The group of 10 volunteer firefighters are donating their time to help fight bushfires in South Canterbury, responding to a call from their southern counterparts.
"We're proud for him to go help," said Chelsea Muldoon, daughter of volunteer Phil Muldoon. "We're disappointed he won't be here for Christmas, but this is what he is trained to do. We'll be ready to welcome him back home."
Mr Muldoon will spend Christmas Day with fellow volunteers John Reihana, Ray Doyle, Kieran Oppatt and Stu Lyall, helping protect South Canterbury residents. Five other firefighters from the Timberlands fire district have also gone south, although their names were not available.
Six helicopters and about 40 firefighters have been working to control the fire, which started on Tuesday afternoon and spread into forest surrounding the small South Canterbury town of Waimate. The fire has damaged about 178ha of gorse and native vegetation and 120ha of 29-year-old forest is at risk. Helicopters and ground crews have been dampening the area and have contained the fire but it is expected to take more than a week to extinguish the flames.
The Rotorua contingent was quickly assembled by Rotorua District Council deputy principal rural fire officer Richard Horn, following a request for help on Wednesday from the National Rural Fire Authority.
Mr Horn said the crew included volunteers from the council and the Lake Okareka and West Rotoiti volunteer brigades.