12 Jul 2008

NZ firefighters on way to burning California

5:16 pm on 12 July 2008

A contingent of New Zealand and Australian firefighters is preparing to head for the United States to help battle devastating forest fires.

More than 60 fires are ravaging the US, with about 1.2 million hectares affected by fire this year.

Nine New Zealanders are in the 44-strong team scheduled to leave for California this weekend after the American authorities formally requested assistance.

The team will relieve local fire crews in remote areas and provide expert advice on tactics and strategy.

California is the worst-hit area, with 24 bushfires, while a further four are raging in the neighbouring desert state of Arizona.

One person has been found dead inside a burned-out house after a wind-fuelled wildfire swept through a rural community in California's Sierra Nevada foothills.