NZDF firefighters in Tasmania – (from left to right) Lance Corporal Thomas Grant, Leading Aircraftman Jonathan McGovern, Lance Corporal Lance Harris, Warrant Officer Class 1 Brent Ruruku and Corporal Joshua Nahi – pose for a group photo after finishing for the day fighting the wildfires at Arthur River in northwest Tasmania.
16 February 2016
Despite battling the Tasmanian bush fires in searing 30 degree plus heat for almost 10 hours a day, Leading Aircraftman (LAC) Jonathan McGovern said he was willing to stay longer and finish the job.
“I’d be happy to extend if I was needed. My colleagues and I are happy to continue helping,” the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) firefighter said.
After working for almost eight years as a sign writer, the Hawke’s Bay local joined the RNZAF in 2012 and trained as a firefighter.
“Tasmania is my first operational deployment overseas, it has been a really good experience so far,” he said.
“It’s good to work with the Australians and the other Kiwi firefighters; their experience and knowledge are helping me build my own.”
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) deployed LAC McGovern and four firefighters from the New Zealand Army in late January to help the Tasmania Fire Service put the wildfires under control.
To get to their work area, the NZDF firefighters have to drive over 50 kilometres of dirt road and carry all their equipment, food packs and water supplies over two kilometres of steep terrain. Because of the withering heat at the work sites, the firefighters said they each drink up to five litres of water each day.
Up at six o’clock every morning, the NZDF firefighters do not get back to their cabins before seven o’clock in the evening.
“It is physically challenging but we are keen to help out our Australian mates. I’m sure they would do the same and come to our aid if we needed it,” LAC McGovern said.
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