Murrumbateman firefighter flies to assist with uncontrolled Gell River blaze

HEAT: Tasmania Fire Service crews battling the blaze at Gell River on January 8. Picture: supplied
HEAT: Tasmania Fire Service crews battling the blaze at Gell River on January 8. Picture: supplied

Volunteer firefighter Barry Haycock from the Murrumbateman Rural Fire Brigade is preparing for extreme conditions over the next week as he joins the second interstate crew sent to fight the Gell River blaze.

Mr Haycock will fly to the uncontrolled bushfire in south-west Tasmania on Tuesday, among a team of 12 remote area firefighters from across NSW.

The blaze has destroyed over 28,000 hectares of the state’s Wilderness World Heritage Area in two weeks.

The group of specialist New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) members that includes Mr Haycock will fight the fire between Wednesday and Sunday, and return next Monday.

This will be Mr Haycock’s first interstate deployment, however, he has extensive experience attending wildfires throughout NSW, according to NSW RFS Southern Tablelands Zone Operational Officer, Daniel Osborne.

Mr Haycock has been with the Murrumbateman Brigade for four years and has specialist skills in operating in remote environments, advanced firefighting and navigation and working with aircraft, including being winched in and out of an aircraft.

“Crews will be working in very remote locations in Tasmania, which means they’ll likely be required to camp overnight, between working in the day,” Mr Osborne said. “It’s also likely that they’ll have little resources and will be self-sufficient.”

Mr Osborne anticipated that Mr Haycock would be feeling nervous but looking forward to the opportunity to assist his interstate colleagues.

“We’re proud every day of what our volunteers do and very thankful to Barry’s employer for releasing him,” Mr Osborne said.

“The conditions Barry and his colleagues will be working in will be very challenging,” he said. “We wish him all the best and look forward to his safe return.”

Authorities have said the Gell River fire could burn for weeks if there is no significant rain.