A CONTINGENT of Country Fire Authority volunteers from across the Wimmera Grampians regions have joined the firefighting effort in New South Wales.
District 16 commander Neville Collins said strike teams were heading up on a rotational basis.
"We had some strike teams return on Friday evening and Sunday night, with two more returning Monday night, and then there was another strike team that went up on Sunday," he said.
"The rotation is that the next strike team after that will be next Sunday.
"Consistency or numbers have varied but we're usually providing two crews of five, but the strike team that went down Sunday consisted of two crews of five and a strike team leaders vehicle of three out of a group of 28 ... also crewed by District 15 volunteers."
Stawell Fire Brigade captain Grant Wells is one volunteer who recently returned from helping the fire fighting effort.
He left on Monday November 11 with fire fighters from districts 15 and 17, returning very early Saturday morning.
"There was five strike teams there and we were based (in Goulburn) on the Tuesday for support into the southern areas below Sydney if something occurred there," he said.
"On the Wednesday and Thursday we got redeployed from Goulburn up to Woolemi National Park north-west of Sydney, where we worked along the main road and helped the Rural Fire Service with back burning operations, securing the fire lines there.
"The Woolemi National Park fire is the closest to Sydney really. The smoke from that actually encompassed Sydney Airport on the Friday."
The volunteer effort is being coordinated by multiple agencies, and the team was put up at the Police Academy in Goulburn the first night.
For the following two nights the team stayed at the RAAF Richmond base, about 90 minutes from where the team worked.
"They looked after us pretty well," Mr Wells said.
"The logistics and the coordinating of it, all agencies did a pretty good job in getting a team that size fed and put into accommodation."
The volunteers themselves also did a good job getting organised enough to depart on the Monday after less than 24-hours notice.
"We were notified 11am on the Sunday and we were leaving the next Monday morning," Mr Wells said.
"It was a good team effort to get everyone up there so quickly. I couldn't be happier with the work that we did and I think a lot of the teams are coming back with the same story."
More teams will be deployed this week.
"The third team that has gone left this week and there is another team being deployed on Sunday," Mr Wells said.
"There will be more deployments after that - I can say that. There are guys and girls still sticking their hands up ready to go."
Mr Wells said the Victorian volunteers were welcomed with relief and gratitude wherever they went.
"They were extremely happy to see us, from the Rural Fire Service members to the general public," he said.
"We were apprehended everywhere we went, from the service station to elsewhere, and thanked for coming up to New South Wales."
Mr Wells commented on how the RFS firefighters were coping.
"They have a lot of work ahead of them and that's the feeling you get from them, that they know that," he said.
On Thursday a group of 11 Country Fire Authority District 17 volunteers from the Horsham district also travelled to NSW to join strike teams on the ground.
District 17 Horsham deputy group officer Roger Perris said District 17 volunteers joined volunteers from districts 15 and 16 to form a 28 person strike team.
"We arrived at the Richmond Fire Base and we camped there all four nights," he said.
"Once we got out on the fire line, it was a completely different area to what we're used to fighting. We have the Grampians here but they are quite small compared to the Blue Mountains.
"The ground there was a lot drier and there were more fuel loads lying around. They also don't have as many tracks around the mountains as we would have in the Grampians, which meant there was harder access.
"Listening to some of the residents and the NSW fire fighters, they said they had never seen fires like this before. While we were there, the main fire caught up to a smaller fire which meant it increased by more than 20,000 hectares."
Mr Perris said the team undertook various tasks.
"We mainly did a lot of asset work and communication information work to let people know what was happening around the area. We also did a lot of fire breaks around houses," he said.
"We also did a protection burn around a town to protect it. "
The group arrived back on Monday after five days.
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