A KEIGHLEY firefighter hopes to fly to Australia to help fight the bushfires devastating the country.

Michael Gissing would be among hundreds of serving and retired UK firefighters travelling Down Under to support beleaguered Aussie fire crews.

The Brit heroes would provide essential support to frontline Australian firefighters, such as rescuing animals, driving, operating pumps and creating fire breaks.

Mr Gissing said many firefighters like him who work in rural areas have experience in tasks useful to the Australian authorities, such as rescuing large animals and post-fire recovery operations.

Mr Gissing, 51, has signed up to be part of a 1,200-strong team from 2T (Tunnel To Towers), a UK volunteer rescue organisation made up of off-duty firefighters who have previously helped in flood emergencies.

He has volunteered along with Tim Bamford, his business partner in Keighley-based GB Fire Services which has its own fire engine and provides fire cover for TV and film productions, festivals, charity events and office team building days.

Mr Gissing is part of a 50-strong team ready this week to depart at a moment's notice. He said Keighley MP Robbie Moore had agreed to press the UK Government to speed up the process.

He said: "We have had fire kits packed and ready since December 22, and are still waiting for the Government to give the green light. We were prepared to fly out Christmas Day, yet we are still here. 

"We are just waiting for confirmation and an aircraft to get us there. We are expecting to be in Australia for two weeks.

"This will be on going for months as the Australian summer has just started and temperatures are set to rise. T2T are looking to deploy personnel over the next three months on a shift rotational pattern.

"We are under no Illusions that this is going to be a tough job. We are taking sleeping bags to sleep on fire station floors or wherever possible!"

T2T is a firefighter organisation that was set up after the World Trade Centre collapse on September 11, 2001.

Michael said: "It sent firefighters to New York, and deploys firefighters to large-scale incidents in the UK including flooding in Lincolnshire, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden. Itprovides large teams under strict supervision, working along side local fire/government departments.

Had a recent meeting with Robbie Moore MP, he gave his full support to T2T and will contact the Secretary of State to try speed up the process and provide any additional assistance. 

The Foreign Office last week announced that its team of experts had arrived in Australia to scope how the UK could best contribute to the Australian response to bushfires.

The team, which includes a senior member of the UK Fire and Rescue Service, a medical specialist in trauma and mental health, and a military liaison officer, would liaise with regional coordinators across several states, as well as with the central Australian government.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: "The team of experts will work with Australian colleagues to establish what type, extent and duration of support will be of most use to the emergency responders, and ensure that such contributions are fully integrated with Australian efforts.

"This engagement will inform options for a future UK contribution, which would focus on areas of most pressing Australian need, including where the UK has world leading capabilities and expertise."