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Heat goes on emergency services

Officers at Masterton Fire Station inspect and clean the hoses. PHOTO/SOUMYA BHAMIDIPATI

soumya [email protected]

Fire and Emergency attended 920 incidents in Wairarapa last year, according to information obtained by the Times-Age from Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

The most common call-outs were for false alarms, accounting for 240 incidents [26 per cent]. This was followed by 144 other fire incidents [16 per cent]. Local brigades also attended several medical events [124 incidents or 13 per cent] and vehicle accidents [109 or 12 per cent].

Apart from one incident, the nature of which was not recorded, the least common were three heat/pressure incidents and three rescues, followed by five HAZMAT incidents.

Brigades were also called to attend 93 vegetation fires, 90 structure fires, 68 special service calls and 40 public assistances.

Masterton station officer Mike Cornford said an ‘other’ fire might involve a bonfire or incinerator fire.

A heat/pressure could be something involving a build-up of steam, he said, while special service and public assistance might be a cat up a tree or a water pipe bursting.

“The medical ones are becoming more and more prevalent,” Cornford said.

“While false alarms do look like they’re getting higher, as part of compliance, a lot of these buildings are required to have these systems in place and that’s part and parcel, there will always be a reason that something might go off occasionally,” Cornford said.

This could range from insects in the system to human error.

“You have to treat every call out, whether it becomes a false alarm later, as a genuine call.

“We don’t mind, we want people to ring us, we’re here. We’d sooner go early, be preventative, and we don’t want to discourage people from ringing us.”

Masterton Fire Station attended more than half the incidents [514], with Carterton Volunteer Fire Brigade the second busiest at 220. This was followed by Featherston Volunteer Fire Brigade at 135 and Greytown Volunteer Fire Brigade at 82.

Multiple brigades would sometimes attend the same incident.

“Carterton have a small fire district, but Carterton are in Masterton a lot,” Cornford said.

“Masterton and Greytown are the two stations that have what we call PRTs, pump rescue tenders, for motor vehicle accidents.

Although Masterton was the busiest station by “a country mile”, the overall number of incidents had dropped, Cornford said.

“One of the things that’s actually happened over the years is there’s probably been a slight reduction in structure fires at certain times of the year and that’s to do with new building of houses, new building standards,” he said.

“We have had what I believe is quite a significant increase in motor vehicle accidents and that’s actually to do with country roads, there’s more vehicles on the road.”

In contrast, Cornford recalled only one vehicle accident during last year’s level four lockdown, when there were fewer cars on the road.

“Motor vehicle incidents have increased because the traffic load’s increased.”

Vegetation fires fluctuated depending on the season’s weather.

“If we don’t get a really, really dry summer then the vegetation fires drop off a little bit, in fact, most of our vegetation fires are not of long duration at the moment.”

Cornford said the trends would be relatively similar across Wairarapa.

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