Australia bushfires: Kiwi firefighters enjoy hard-earned rest after gruelling battle

After five long days battling Australia's bushfires, a group of 20 New Zealand firefighters are today enjoying a well-earned rest.

They've been tackling a 65,000-hectare blaze east of Canberra in New South Wales.

The Fire and Emergency New Zealand strike team is only called in when conditions are at their worst - as they were in Australia last Friday, the team's second day on the ground.

Heat and wind sent embers flying and saw the firefront quickly surge.

"You can be watching something fairly innocuous and then whoosh it's right up the trees, running through the trees faster than running speed," says strike team leader Bruce Janes.

The group of 20 Kiwi firefighters was greeted in Sydney by cheers and applause from the public as they stepped into the arrivals hall.

They're now fighting the Charleys Forest blaze, an offshoot of the massive Currowan fire which has burned through hundreds of thousands of hectares and destroyed huge parts of New South Wales.

"You look at the maps and realise you've been busy for days on the tiniest part of this thing, like the hair off a dog's back," says Janes.

The team got a rest day on Tuesday after five long days, before the next gruelling stint begins.

 "Get out of the truck into 40 degrees, start running around with a shovel and hose - it takes its toll," Janes admits.

Much of the work is preparation, such as clearing ground and felling trees. But when it flares and fires are spreading, priorities change to saving homes.

 We were sitting in the fire station talking about what we were up to and a lady stands up in the corner and says 'that was my house' ", says Kaukapakapa firefighter Christ Southwick.

"And she asked us straight away 'did you save my home'?' And we said 'yes, we ended up saving it', and she broke down." 

This week better weather is helping, but the battle's far from won.

Cooler, calmer conditions have allowed firefighters to stop the advance, but all the while embers continue to burn and threaten to spread when the heat returns.

And when it does, the Kiwis are ready to return to Australia's fiery front.