Kiwi crews battling ‘radical’ conditions in Australia

January 11, 2016 6:36 am

 Kiwi firefighters have gone to help fight the bush fires in Victoria, . Photo / iStock

Otago firefighters are continuing to battle a major bushfire in ”radical” conditions in the Australian state of Victoria.
Four
local firefighters have joined the 150-strong crew battling a 250,000ha
blaze in the Otway Ranges region, where heavy eucalypt forests adjoin
the coastline.
The local crew arrived at their base in
Birregurra, near the small western Victorian city of Colac, a week ago,
and would remain there for another two weeks.
Otago Rural Fire
Authority deputy principal rural fire officer Graeme Still said the fire
itself was not extreme but conditions on the coast were making life
very difficult for firefighters.

Dunedin firefighter Chris McLeod gives water to a koala in Victoria. Photo / Otago Daily Times
Dunedin firefighter Chris McLeod gives water to a koala in Victoria. Photo / Otago Daily Times
“It’s really steep. We’re talking radical,” he said.

“In one case, I had to climb back out on my knees, almost straight up. It’s pretty rugged country.”
The
blaze was similar to a decent forest fire in New Zealand but the
fragile eucalyptus trees made the situation far more dangerous, Mr Still
said.
“They shed branches pretty easily. They can just crash down, so there’s a lot of situational awareness [needed].
“That’s the main hazard, as well as slipping and falling over.”
Crews
were working their way around the edge of the fire perimeter, and up to
30m inside of it, in an effort to stop the blaze entering suburban
areas, Mr Still said.
It had already destroyed 116 homes in two small coastal communities, Wye River and Separation Creek.
“It’s
relatively small for Australian fires but it’s quite dangerous, because
it’s really close to a lot of high-value communities.”
The
local crew, which included a tree feller who was cutting down smoking or
“chimney” trees, had just completed two days off and would be back on
deck tomorrow, Mr Still said.
They were due to return home on January 23.

Further help on the way

More Kiwi firefighters will travel to Australia today to help fight the bush fires.
A
total of 22 firefighters from stations in Auckland, Rotorua-Whakatane,
the West Coast and Invercargill will head across the Tasman this
afternoon.
They are the second contingent from New Zealand assigned to help.
National
Rural Fire Officer Kevin O’Connor said the crews on the ground had
already made a big impact – helping to contain fires, which continue to
burn on a 40km front around Victoria’s southwest coast.
Mr
O’Connor said fire danger remained “very high” and both deployments were
scheduled to last up to three weeks. There was a possibility that could
be extended, depending on conditions.
The fires were sparked last month after lightning strikes in the area.

Tags:
shared on wplocker.com