Kiwi firefighters to help Australians battling fires

Police block Great Ocean Rd through to Apollo Bay in Lorne (AAP)
Police block Great Ocean Rd through to Apollo Bay in Lorne (AAP)

Twenty-three firefighters from the country's rural fire authorities fly to Australia today.

They will be helping with the fires in Victoria that have destroyed 2500 hectares already.

The firefighters are leaving this afternoon from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch before arriving in Melbourne to begin work tomorrow around the town of Lorne, 150 kilometres southwest of Melbourne.

"Working conditions will be arduous, with steep and inaccessible terrain, plus high temperatures. Numerous aircraft are currently working on the fires," says national rural fire officer Kevin O'Connor.

The fires have destroyed 120 homes in the area so far, and more are under threat.

Drought conditions and moderate winds are fuelling the fires further along Great Ocean Rd, south of Melbourne.

The fires were sparked by lightning strikes last month, and are still burning dense forest.

They span along a 40-kilometre front and threaten Great Otway National Park, the Mount Cowley tower and water supply catchments for Barwon and Lorne.

A second group of 22 firefighters will leave on January 11. Both deployments are expected to last three weeks.

The firefighters are drawn from rural fire authorities around the country, including Department of Conservation and forestry companies.

New Zealand firefighters have been helping combat Australian fires since 2001. This will be the 17th trip.

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