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Simulating a wildfire response

A response to a large scale, complex emergency, such as a forest fire, is something Fire and Emergency [Fenz] has thought about – a lot.
In October last year, Fenz held one of its regular simulated exercises [simex] from Masterton Fire Station.
Fenz staff were put to the test responding to a hypothetical wildfire burning on the Coromandel Peninsula, with homes and culturally significant sites at risk.
Wairarapa group manager Craig Cottrill said the type of scenario, a wildfire in this case, was almost irrelevant for the purposes of the exercise.
“It’s more about the response to an incident that is growing in complexity and size, and the impact it’s having on communities and the number of resources at your disposal.
“A large vegetation fire can have that impact, but the specific scenario is not so important.”
Cottrill said the team had to make decisions and escalated the response as information came to light, including making calls on evacuations, earthworks for fire breaks, road closures, and aerial support.
It was a multi-day event that included media stand-ups.
“For example, the use of helicopters is a pretty low threshold. You don’t want to be putting people in positions of danger.
“But regardless of the type of incident, the same principles and processes apply, with supporting roles, logistics, planning, and welfare.”
He said preparations are currently underway for a simex in Hawke’s Bay.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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