In the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, crews of firefighters in the area have been working nonstop to deal with the massive workload, with calls still flooding in.
George Verry, United Fire Brigades’ Association Chief Executive Officer, says that he is mindful of the stress being placed on the firefighters in the area, and will continue to work alongside the New Zealand Fire Service to support brigades in any way he can. “Our firefighters are doing an amazing job assisting their communities, particularly when they have responsibilities in their own homes,” he says. “In situations like this, we are just proud and thankful to have so many dedicated volunteers.”
Nigel Lilley, Rolleston’s Chief Fire Officer, says that although the workload is quieting down slightly, it is still constant, particularly as the aftershocks continue to loosen structures. Darfield, Rolleston, Kaiapoi, Brooklands, and Christchurch Central, were among the hardest-hit areas.
“So far, Ashburton has come in to assist us and Amberley is supporting Kaiapoi,” Lilley says. “Paid staff are also providing a few hours of relief in places, and Southern paid crews are giving firefighters from Christchurch central a break. Should the workload not ease up, they may come from further afield.”
“Nothing slowed down at all until last night. But now it’s all on again today,” he says. “I made a decision to close our station Sunday night to provide rest for our guys, and the army came in to cover . These kinds of decisions are made in the local area by the Chief Fire Officer, though should things not let up, this may be enforced by higher ranks.”
In situations like this, firefighters go above and beyond the usual responsibilities of putting out fires and rescuing people from cars. “Firefighters are remarkable and truly special people,” Lilley says. “They will do absolutely anything to assist their communities in any way they possibly can.”
Luckily, it appears that the homes of most of the members of the Rolleston brigade are intact. The Rolly Inn, owned by Lilley, also escaped with minimal damage, although he says a lot of stock was lost.
With firefighters putting in such long hours at calls over the past couple of days, Lilley says his biggest concern is for the welfare of his brigade members. “The team is out constantly at calls, with the added stress of leaving partners and families at home,” he says. “This has to be closely monitored and managed.“
“We are continuing to receive so many messages of support, and that helps. We just want to put out a massive thank you to everyone for that.”
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