On April 16th RRT teams from Rangiora and Christchurch were privileged to work alongside Waimakariri District Council’s volunteer rural fire forces from various areas, along with the Civil Defense.
Volunteer Fire Brigades consist entirely of people from New Zealand communities who give up their time freely to respond in emergency situations. They receive training, support and education; and have played a huge role in national emergencies, such as the Christchurch earthquake. They receive an estimated 62 000 callouts every year. There are approximately eight thousand volunteer rural fire fighters in New Zealand, compared to 1400 ‘career’ or professional fire fighters. There are also a number of other related Fire Service Organisations across New Zealand, with volunteer and professional members.
Approximately 90 volunteers along with fire tenders, a remote controlled 20-ton digger, 4WD water tankers, an 8WD water tanker and a helicopter with a monsoon bucket attended the event, held in the forest between Woodend Beach and Pines Beach, about 50km from Christchurch City.
A sizeable field exercise was held, starting at 9:00am, and finishing at 1:00pm. The mock scenario was a forest fire that had become out of control and was heading towards the local houses.
The RRT arrived at 8:00am, to set up a refreshments tent. They supplied water bottles throughout the exercise and then cooked and served gourmet burgers at lunch. The teams, who were exhausted and hungry by this point, very much appreciated the lunch!
In the past the various teams have worked individually, so all felt the exercise had been very valuable in practicing a coordinated effort. A half hour debrief was held after lunch with each team leader discussing how they can improve response times, communications and the general organization and deployment of teams when they have an emergency event in the future.
It was a very rewarding day working alongside like-minded volunteers and to be able to support these great individuals who give up their time to help people and communities in times of need.