Taskforce Kiwi: Veteran New Zealand firefighters who volunteered in Canada wildfires return home

Veteran New Zealand firefighters in the volunteer Taskforce Kiwi group have landed back in Aotearoa after helping Canadian families who lost their homes in devastating wildfires.

The group had the back-breaking and heart-breaking task of recovering something, anything of value from the rubble.

From Nova Scotia's scorched earth back to soggy New Zealand. Taskforce Kiwi volunteer Jenny Calder told Newshub it was "heartwarming" to repay Canada for the work "they've done in Hawke's Bay with us".

Tens of thousands of Nova Scotians were forced from their homes by wildfires, with 150 homes destroyed.

Taskforce Kiwi is made up of Defence and emergency services veterans and was set up to respond to natural disasters around the world.

Six volunteers swapped the flood-devastated homes of Hawke's Bay for the ruins in Canada.

Their task: to sift through what remained in the cinders of homes.

"It does become emotional when we found objects that brought tears to the homeowners' eyes," Calder said. 

Sometimes there was joy in the tiniest of mementos. 

"Two little blue ceramic boots probably about yay big and handwritten had the boy's name Thomas handwritten on the toes of them. And that was given to him when he was born," said volunteer Grant Marshall. 

The discovery was one small but significant victory against the forces of nature.

"When we took those to their parents just the look on their faces… you see their hearts just full of it and just it just makes all the travel, all the hard work makes it why we do it," Marshall said. 

Taskforce leader Pete Adam said finding the little things might not seem that big, but in the scheme of things "it helps those people if they can clutch on to something that used to be part of their lives then they can reconnect with it". 

It's true wildfires rarely happen on such a scale in New Zealand but the taskforce says they'll file what they learned, because climate change suggests it will become more common.