Decision due on Kiwi firefighters in US

  • 04/09/2015
(Reuters)
(Reuters)

A decision is due on whether 71 New Zealand and Australian firefighters helping to fight wildfires in the US will stay on or return home.

The 15 Kiwi firefighters left two weeks ago and it was the first time the US asked for help from New Zealand and Australia since 2008.

The deployment was initially for a fortnight with the possibility of an extension for another two weeks if needed.

A decision is expected to be made on Friday in the US on whether they will stay on for the second two weeks, National Rural Fire officer Kevin O'Connor says.

More than 8 million acres have burned in US wildfires in 2015, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

There are still 59 large fires raging, particularly in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana, the agency says in its latest report.

The NZ firefighters are working in the northwest area where 200 soldiers from 17th Field Artillery Brigade based out of Fort Lewis are also working, according to the agency.

"They're split up into four groups but it's all in the northwest in Washington state," Mr O'Connor told NZ Newswire.

They're working as sector bosses or as helicopter crew managers - skills the US authorities requested, he says.

The New Zealanders are working long hours based in remote areas but will get a few days off next week.

"The weather's starting to cool down and they've reduced the number of firefighters a bit," Mr O'Connor says.

Last month a team of New Zealand firefighters returned from a month-long deployment to Canada.

NZN