IT IS one of the toughest jobs in firefighting. When the country is too rough for equipment to reach, Tasmania Fire Service sends in the RATs - remote area teams specially trained to fight fires on foot using minimal hand-operated tools.
The teams have been responsible for setting containment lines and blacking-out hot-spots in the wilder parts of bushfires burning around Tasmania this year.
Launceston firefighters are among those who have been dropped off in rough terrain in the North-West this week and left to hike the distance to the fire front carrying a rake-hoe, hundreds of metres of hosing and a portable pump.
They are working to control the fire that has burnt more than 3000 hectares of bush and threatened homes near Montumana.
Other teams, made up of New Zealand firefighters and Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment employees, have been working at Lake Repulse.
Northern district officer Steven Richardson said RATs were used to conduct back-burning operations and identify risks, like large trees burning near the edge of a fire area.
"It is a lot of arduous manual labour," Mr Richardson said.
"They carry hose and portable pumps so they can find a dam or a river and lay out hundreds of metres of hose to get the water source to the fire.
"If there's no water sometimes the helicopter can drop in a bladder. They are like a portable dam: 500 litres of water that can be put right where you need it."
The remote area teams are among 70 professional and volunteer firefighters from Northern Tasmania sent to fight fires in other districts since January 5.
Five fire trucks remain in the South, crewed by a revolving door of Northern and interstate firefighters.
Another team of 16 firefighters will relieve crews working at an uncontrolled bushfire at Interlaken Road near Steppes in the Central Highlands today.
Mr Richardson said milder than expected temperatures had allowed firefighters to get ahead in their efforts to control six major bushfires burning around the state, four of which were still not contained.