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Firing up fire resources


Moves to ensure security of safety gear during natural disasters

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Having a fire station at the beach in a tsunami zone next to a river that floods isn’t ideal and that’s why Fire and Emergency NZ are looking at what to do at Castlepoint.

“The last thing we want is to be the first person to call for help in a disaster,” Phill Wishnowsky, the principal rural fire officer for Wairarapa and Tararua, said.

Castlepoint has a single-bay concrete block garage with a fire engine in it. Fire and Emergency NZ want to add a double-cab 4WD ute to improve the station’s response ability but there is nowhere to put it.

Anders Crofoot, owner of Castlepoint Station and the fire chief, said it was still being decided where the fire station could move to, and one issue was that it still needed to be central, while on higher ground.

“It’s not in the best place. At the moment, when there is a warning one of the first things we do is shift the appliance out of there and put it somewhere safe.”

It’s an example of the kind of work that has been going on since Fire and Emergency NZ was created a year ago on Sunday.

Phill Wishnowsky. PHOTO/FILE

Wishnowsky gave a presentation to Masterton District Council last week about the resources that have gone into the region, and about the work with communities to solve issues such as those faced at Castlepoint.

There was funding for the creation of Fire and Emergency NZ in addition to the money usually collected for levies.

Wishnowsky told councillors about new pumps, new wet weather gear, new traffic management equipment and new hand-held radios.

New defibrillation equipment was going out next month so fire crews can better respond to medical callouts, he said.

He told councillors the former Wairarapa Rural Fire Service Board had a much wider role than just fighting fires. About 40 per cent of its business was fire-related and 60 per cent was other than fire.

Crofoot said good work had been done by the previous board and the transition period for the new organisation would take several years.

The new radios received this year were very good, he said.

Councillors heard how Fire and Emergency NZ was looking for sensible solutions with local communities.

One example was Tiraumea.

“We can’t give Tiraumea a fire engine because it won’t fit in the shed,” Wishnowsky said.

But up the road there is a stunning community hall.

“Why not just build a two-bay functional shed next to it and use the hall for administration,” he said.

The idea had been discussed with the community but there was a long way to go, he said.

At Lake Ferry, the fire station was also in the tsunami zone and there had been discussions about moving it to Pirinoa, either alongside the hall or tennis club.

“We are working with the community to look at options,” he said.

In Tuturumuri, the regional council is in the process of subdividing off and gifting the land to Fire and Emergency NZ.

Fire and Emergency NZ had already put a new concrete pad outside the fire station, which would be further upgraded, Wishnowsky said.

He said Fire and Emergency NZ, when created, combined rural and urban fire fighting for the first time in New Zealand history.

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