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NSW: NSW to help fight Vic fires until at least next week

By Nick Ralston
11 Feb 2009 5:10 PM

SYDNEY, Feb 11 AAP - NSW's contribution to the Victorian firefighting effort will continue until at least the end of next week with hot conditions forecast until then.

Three hundred members of the NSW Fire Brigade and Rural Fire Service (RFS) have been on the ground in Victoria since Sunday, with relief crews now on their way.

Premier Nathan Rees said Victoria had requested the NSW crews remain in Victoria for at least another week and a half.

"The advice from Victoria is that hot weather is expected next week, until the middle of next week, and they've asked for our assistance to be continued until at least the end of next week," Mr Rees told reporters after briefing the departing crews at Sydney airport.

"It's a very sizeable contingent. We'll continue to roll it over to avoid fatigue."

The 80 crew of firefighters and paramedics that left for Victoria on Wednesday were from Sydney's south and southwest and will work for 72 hours before they too are relieved.

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said he had spoken to crew on the ground who described a place where "you and I would not want to be".

"I've said that to the troops here today," Mr Fitzsimmons said.

"We've asked them to look after themselves, focus on safety, and focus on their own personal state of mind in dealing with an unprecedented situation.

"They will certainly come back better people."

Among those leaving for Victoria on Wednesday was RFS volunteer Ken Chalker who expected he'd be straight off the plane and "straight down to business".

"We're trained to do what we've got to do," he said.

"But the magnitude of it most of these blokes have never ever seen before or seen such intensity."

Ambulance officer Mark Venter said he regularly travelled around NSW and interstate to deal with fire situations, but conceded the Victorian situation would be unlike any he had ever experienced.

"I don't think anyone has, and to be honest I'd rather not experience it, but the opportunity is there and everyone wants to do their bit," he said prior to boarding his plane.

"It's a huge fire. It's a terrible circumstance, but people just want to get down there and do what they can."

Along with fire crews, NSW has already donated $1 million to the Victorian bushfire appeal, as well as police and medical officers, while even more remain on standby.

NSW farmers are also being urged to contribute fodder for their Victorian counterparts who have been devastated by the bushfires.

Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said the NSW government would coordinate a fodder relief effort in cooperation with the NSW Farmers Association and Victorian farmers' organisations.

"Our farmers have been doing it tough in recent years, but I know they will be willing to help where they can," Mr Macdonald said in a statement.

Anyone who wants to help those in Victoria with non-cash contributions is urged to contact the NSW government hotline on 1800 227 228.