Firefighter back from Tasmania's frontline

A Queenstown firefighter is enjoying some well-earned rest and recreation by a lake with his family after 12 days helping fight a vast wildfire in Tasmania.

Bobby Lamont got home on Sunday after being deployed to the southwest of the island, where fires continue to rage across about 50,000 hectares of largely steep, remote country.

They have been burning since late December after a heatwave, lightning strikes and high winds ignited about 70 fires.

The deputy principal rural fire officer for Central Otago, and Queenstown brigade volunteer, was one of seven incident managers in a 28-strong team from New Zealand.

Queenstown firefighter Bobby Lamont is back from fighting a huge wildfire in Tasmania. Photo: Guy Williams
Queenstown firefighter Bobby Lamont is back from fighting a huge wildfire in Tasmania. Photo: Guy Williams

The other 21 were remote area firefighters who were driven or flown into the fire zone for one- or two-day stints.

Mr Lamont said the team's job was ''defensive'' firefighting, controlling the fires and directing them away from vital infrastructure and valuable natural features.

The fires were predicted to keep burning for another six to eight weeks.

''It'll be Mother Nature that puts it out in the end.''

Based in Hobart, his role involved planning ahead to protect resources a couple of days before the fire arrived.

That was done on the ground by creating firebreaks, laying fire retardant and putting sprinklers in place around vital infrastructure such as hydro dam control stations and internet and telephone lines.

The remote area firefighters were a mixture of Fire and Emergency NZ personnel, Department of Conservation staff and forestry company workers.

''For the guys that were dropped off, it was quite tough out there, but it's what they train for.

''The biggest consideration was the potential fuel types, the potential danger of fires spreading quickly.

''A lot of the time it was too dangerous to get the firefighters too close.''

They were working alongside about 600 Australian firefighters, including professionals and volunteers from Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales as well as Tasmania.

Mr Lamont, who has twice been deployed to fires in Canada, said a second rotation of incident managers was already on the island, while more remote area firefighters were also likely to be sent soon.

New Zealand fire personnel have been deployed overseas 23 times since 2000, including 12 times to Australia.


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