Dunedin firefighters off to battle Aussie wildfire

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Dunedin firefighters were among a crew deployed this week to battle a massive wildfire in Australia.

A Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) spokeswoman said a crew of 40 firefighters departed Auckland for Sydney on Monday afternoon to support firefighting efforts as fire conditions were expected to worsen.

The contingent would replace the team returning to New Zealand later this week.

An early bushfire season has hit across several states of Australia.

Hardest hit has been New South Wales, where there have been six deaths, more than 600 homes destroyed and more than 1.65million hectares razed.

Fenz deputy principal rural fire officer for Dunedin and Clutha Jason Sarich, speaking to The Star from Auckland Airport, said it was his first international deployment.

The crew would be away for 13 days.

Mr Sarich, who is based at the Dunedin Central Fire Station, said he had been appointed as a crew leader in Australia.

The work would include property protection and other firefighting-related activities.

“It’s hard to say what we’ll be doing because there is a lot to be done .. You’re there to help your mates across the Ditch.”

When asked if he was feeling nervous, he replied: “Not at all a sense of duty.”

The crew also includes two Otago firefightersofficer Gareth Bowen, of Dunedin, and Tony Smith, of Alexandra.