New Zealand has sent 43 firefighters to take part in a three week deployment to help combat fires burning in Tasmania.
The firefighters will initially concentrate on containing fires in World Heritage sites in the west and southwest of Tasmania where the fire risk was extreme.
Nearly 80 fires are burning throughout Tasmania, most started by lightning strikes and fuelled by drought conditions and strong winds.
The eight groups consist of five member teams, plus three liaison staff. The teams come from Rural Fire Authorities in Whangarei, Auckland, Rotorua, Nelson and Invercargill. A Defence Force team and Department of Conservation team will also join the deployment – the eleventh to Australia since 2001.
Deployment - Friday, 29 January 2016
The deployment to Tasmania, Australia started with the team assembling at various airports around New Zealand for flights to Melbourne and then onto Hobart.
Most flights to Hobart were delayed for an hour or two due to thunderstorms.
The storms brought some welcome rain to parts of Tasmania. Unfortunately, the rain did not reach the areas that needed it the most, being the North West. The storms also started an additional 14 new fires from lightning strikes.
Accommodation for the night was at the Tasmania Police College. Everyone was on their best behaviour due to a Police recruit course being on at the same time (the recruits looking for any opportunity to practice their skills).
Photo: Team deployed to Tasmania, Australia - taken at the Police College before departure.
The team received a briefing from Tony Blanks (ex-Tasmania Fire Service). The briefing covered a range of issues including the local hazards to be aware of (it is currently snake breeding season in Tasmania, so taking extra care was encouraged).
Once briefed crews departed, by bus, for the fires they had been assigned; Strathgordon complex and Zeehan complex.
Strathgordon is a small village established when they built the hydro station - there is not a lot of infrastructure there, and certainly no cell phone coverage. Crews will be staying at the Pedders Wildness Lodge.
For those going to Zeehan, there is even less infrastructure, with accommodation to be provided in Queenstown - many looked forward to this experience given their knowledge of Queenstown, NZ.
Queenstown, Tasmania however is quite different to our own back home. Once a mining town, years of tree removal, fumes from the smelter, and a high annual rainfall have left the surround hills stark of any vegetation. Many of the buildings are of an older style, with few new developments and building projects occurring.
Photo: Queenstown Tasmania Australia.
Currently there are 71 fires burning across Tasmania, with most incidents located in the west. The bulk of the fires were started by lightning when a series of storms passed over the state on 13 January.
To date the fires have burnt an area of approximately 100,000 hectares, of which 23,000 hectares fall within the World Heritage area.
Weather patterns in Tasmania have been particularly unusual this season with significant rain in the east (some areas receiving 400% of their normal rainfall) and very little in the west (a complete swap of normal weather patterns).
This occurrence has meant areas in west Tasmania are extremely dry and susceptible to fire.
Current conditions onsite are relatively benign with temperatures in the low 20s, high relative humidity, and light winds - the resulting low fire behaviour meaning the area burnt has not changed significantly.
Tim Mitchell - NZ Liaison
Arthur River Complex
Dave Newton - Task Force Leader
Mike Donovan - Crew Leader
Billy Torpey - Fire Fighter
Saxon Ross - Fire Fighter
Kierin Oppatt - Fire Fighter
Simon Stoddart - Fire Fighter
New Zealand Defence Force
Brent Ruruku - Crew LeaderJoshua Nahi - Fire Fighter
Thomas Grant - Fire Fighter
Jonathan McGovern - Fire Fighter
Lance Harris - Fire Fighter
Rodger Nelson - Crew Leader
James Werahiko - Fire Fighter
Stuart Lyall - Fire Fighter
Alan Keeber - Fire Fighter
Mark Cleghorn - Fire Fighter
Jeremy Cox - Crew Leader
Stephen Gatenby - Fire Fighter
Kahmen Jones - Fire Fighter
Hayden Pearson - Fire Fighter
Darren Melville - Fire Fighter
Department of Conservation
John Rasmussen - Task Force Leader
NELMAC & Waimea RFA
Ashton Oliver - Crew Leader
Sam Speight - Fire Fighter
Brendan Jones - Fire Fighter
Nathan Palmer - Fire Fighter
Lee Beloe - Fire Fighter
Department of Conservation
Stephen Robson - Crew Leader
Nathan Jones - Fire Fighter
Patrik Eschenmoser - Fire Fighter
Steve Packer - Fire Fighter
Ken Keenan - Crew Leader
David Coveney - Fire Fighter
Rewa Mahai - Fire Fighter
Vuniyani Qoro -Fire Fighter
Naipolioni Qasevkicatini - Fire Fighter
Forest Protection Services
Garrett Ugray - Crew Leader
Joseph Cowen - Fire Fighter
Taylor Snelgar - Fire Fighter
Nathan Sullivan - Fire Fighter
Martin White - Fire Fighter
Nicky Robinson - Fire Fighter