Christchurch: Challenging conditions at Port Hills fires
From Brett Reed, Waikuku Beach Volunteer Rural Fire Force
From Monday 13 February when fires started in the Port Hills, Christchurch was again faced with a major threat to property, people, its city and community.
Waikuku Beach firefighters managed to get some footage on the front line up on the Port Hills on the Wednesday and Thursday, more so on Worsley Road.
WAIK1811 was one of the first units up there on the Wednesday along with Rangiora, Christchurch City and Selwyn Brigades. More arrived soon after. All the other brigades were tied up at Early Valley Road or on standby in their own communities.
Together with NZFS, Rural, DOC, Police, civil contractors and chopper pilots, we all tried so hard to save the houses on Wednesday. We had to pull back due to the height and ferocity of the flames—at one stage dropping our hose and running along the side of the hill as the head of the fire turned on us.
We all stayed right up till the last minute, some of us only withdrawing due to safety. We had to pull some guys away as they didn’t want to leave. Power was on and off and water pressure was off for several hours.
That’s when we lost three houses on Wednesday night. It was very sad to see this happen and we all thought of the families that lost their homes. We were talking about it all night, a conflicting sense of achievement and loss.
The chopper pilots were the real heroes—I don’t even know how they could see half the time. Listening to Air Ops you would have thought they were seasoned pros, they were awesome. Sadly, some of us had met Steve Askin at other fire calls, flying the chopper.
There was a ton of police and civilian contractors, digger drivers and the Army and yes, Richie was working behind the scenes helping Air Ops.
All the crews did an exceptional job that day in extremely challenging conditions. On the following days we worked with a Christchurch City Station crew who were fantastic. Think they got dirtier than us.
Lastly, a big thank you to all the employers that gave their volunteer firefighter staff time to attend this event.
Edgecumbe: Keeping the flood relief teams going
On Thursday 6 April, a wall of water devastated the Bay of Plenty town of Edgecumbe after the Rangitaiki River breached a stopbank.
Our members responded immediately to meet the needs of their communities.
With an aim of better using resources, Karl Lapwood, CFO Ngaruawahia Volunteer Fire Brigade, is involved with training members of the Hamilton Operational Support team.
“This means for jobs like the relief work in Edgecumbe, we can mix and match resources so we’re not taking all the firefighters from Ngaruawahia,” Karl says.
Ngaruawahia brigade has a self-built canteen and a van they use for transport and to pick up food—this time from local New World and PAK’nSAVE stores.
“We had a team in Edgecumbe for seven days in total plus a group of four who did another four days,” Karl says.
“It is a big ask to call brigade members away at the best of times let alone over the Easter break, but our teams are so dedicated they decided to give up their time off to go help others in need.”
The team spent the first four days solely on catering and cooking meals for all involved from the New Zealand Fire Service and their families, New Zealand Police, New Zealand Defence Force and other agencies.
“Our team’s contribution included supplying full cooked breakfasts,” says Karl. “On the first day alone we did 110 breakfasts, 150 lunches and 150 dinners.”
The team was pulled out of Edgecumbe with the predicted arrival of Cyclone Cook. However, a group then returned to help the local brigade clean and strip out damaged houses
“I commend Edgecumbe Brigade on how they and their families managed in such trying circumstances,” Karl says. “Along with the incredible support of the Rapid Relief Team, it was very much a team effort.”
Adrian Massey, CFO Edgecumbe Volunteer Fire Brigade, says the support from Ngaruawahia and Hamilton Operational Support volunteers was absolutely invaluable.
“They gave outstanding service and are a great team,” he says. “We gratefully appreciated their support.
“One of our firefighters lost his home and a pet and the majority of others in the brigade couldn’t stay in their homes during the flood. The teams worked incredibly well right though this devastating time."
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