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Hampshire firefighter flying to Australia to assist with bushfire crisis

Picture credits: Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service

A firefighter from Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service is flying out to Canberra to assist with recovery and restoration.

Steve Watters, 51, based at Winchester station will be part of a 40-person strong team that are flying out to the region where a state of emergency has been declared.

The mission was organised by firefighter-run charity Tunnel2Towers to re-establish communities and work alongside wildlife organisations.

More than 18,500 hectares is burning in Canberra's southern territory and residents have been warned of possible evacuations.

Over 30 people have killed by the country's bushfire crisis, thousands of homes have been destroyed and a billion animals are estimated to have died.

The Tunnel2Towers team will be camping in Adelong and working closely with Fire and Rescue New South Wales (NSW).

The team will assist with re-establishing borders and restoring farms and homes.

They will also work with BlazeAid, RSPCA Australia and Wires to rescue, recover and support injured koalas and kangaroos.

Speaking of the mission, Watters said:

“I’m doing this because it’ll be an amazing development opportunity that is close to home for me.

"I have family living in Australia and I’ve seen the devastation and how hard communities have been hit.

“This is a chance for me to give something back and help people in need.

"I’m sure this will be an experience that will stay with me forever.

“Every little bit helps, and I’ve always believed that if you can help, you should.

"The more people that join and come together as a team, the sooner these communities can get back to their normal lives.”

Mr Watters has been a part of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's team for nearly 25 years and has also served as a firefighter in Andover.

He has also worked with Hampshire's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team in locations including Haiti, New Zealand and Japan.

Group Manager Jerry Leonard, who helped to develop the Hampshire USAR team, said:

“HFRS is pleased to be supporting the ongoing situation in Australia.

“Steve has diverse skills to offer, not only his specialised knowledge from being with the service and USAR, but also his practical ability.

“Our firefighters can bring a wealth of experience and capabilities in many areas to cope with the worst type of incidents, and Steve has the full support of the Service behind him.”

The Tunnel2Towers group plan on flying to Canberra shortly.

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