Kiwi firefighters who helped battle US blazes return home

Two groups of Kiwi firefighters who helped with wildfires in the United States and Canada have returned home.

A team of 34 was deployed to the US at the start of August, followed shortly by a contingent of 65 who travelled to Canada to offer their help. 

Now they have been reunited with their loved ones at Auckland Airport, after more than a month of gruelling but rewarding work.

In the United States and Canada they helped battle blazes the likes of which they'd never seen before.   

"Hundred-times scale - just everything bigger, hotter, drier, more people, more fire," Craig Cotteril, principal rural fire officer for Wellington area, said.

Mr Cotteril was sent to the fires at Carr and Mendocino Complex. Seven people have died in the Carr fire, which destroyed more than 1000 homes, while in Mendocino it's burned through more than 100,000 hectares and is now the largest fire in Californian history.

"My only previous experience of large fires is the Port Hills, and what we saw over there dwarfs it," Reginald Reid from NZ Defence Force said. 

The Christchurch Port Hills fires forced a state of emergency, destroyed nine homes, and saw hundreds of residents evacuated. It burned through 2000 hectares in total.

"There was 3000 firefighters on the fires we were in in Northern California, and we've only got 14,000 firefighters in New Zealand," principal rural fire officer for Auckland, Thomas Harre, said.

The team worked long days on the ground - up to 15 hours and in temperatures as high as 43degC.

"We don't do a lot of indirect fire attack in New Zealand, so that's working away from the fire," Mr Cotteril said.

"The different equipment that they used and how they used it - hopefully we can apply that to some of our fires here," Mr Reid said.

The team is lending a hand across the globe, and gaining experience they hope will prove invaluable back here at home. 

Contact Newshub with your story tips: