The Lake Okareka community and surrounding area comprises a population of approximately 500 people. The Lake Okareka Fire Force is the first response for emergency incidents in the area. We also respond to emergencies in the Rotorua District and some volunteers are New Zealand Seasonal Fire Fighters, who respond to national and international fires. We are fiercely proud that in our 29 years, we have never missed a callout.
Our organisation holds regular training sessions every Wednesday night for approximately 2-3 hours. Members can then undertake a range of assessment activities that are formally recognized on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework to obtain a National Certificate in Fire and Rescue Services. In 2008, we won the national Emergency Management Qualification Excellence in Training Award and, in 2011, our Chief Fire Officer, Phil Muldoon, was awarded the Rotorua District Community Award.
The Lake Okareka Rural Fire Force pledges to provide the best possible emergency service to the people of the Lake Okareka Community and Rotorua District to minimize suffering, loss of life and loss of property incurred by fire, accidents, disasters, and medical emergencies. Our goal is emergency response with the highest quality training and resources available.
We also strive to be a pro-active organization and include activities to promote and encourage member training, community involvement, public relations, and fire prevention education as well as encourage camaraderie within the brigade.
The Lake Okareka Rural Fire Force is heavily involved in supporting events in the Lake Okareka community and the Rotorua District. In June 2011, we supplied 59,000 litres of water to the Rotoiti sewerage scheme with a total of 27 hours volunteered. In October, a total of 229,000 litres of water was transported to Mamaku with 30 hours volunteered; 38,000 litres to Reporoa; 24,000 litres to Kaharoa and 40,000 litres to the Malfroy Road Petrol Station, raising $9,124.50.
The Fire Force participated in two local community events; The Flying Trout which delivered 40,000 litres for their waterslide and provided marshals for the 2011 3D Rotorua Multisport Events. In December each year the Lake Okareka fire truck delivers Santa Claus to The Lake Okareka Pre-School, to hand out small presents to the children.
In February 2012 volunteers marshalled at the Whakawerawera Forest for the National Mountain Bike Downhill Championships and the 2012 Oceania Mountain Bike Championship in March. These two events provided volunteers with hands on first aid experience plus they raised $4,400. Our national involvement includes two deployments of our seasonal fire fighters to Kaimaumau, Northland in February 2010 and Ashworth, Christchurch over Christmas 2010.
Our fire appliance which we are looking to replace has responded to 19 incidents so far this year. These include two motor vehicle accidents where passengers were trapped, multiple trees blocking road use, several fires around the Lake Okareka community plus a medical emergency to assist St John Ambulance staff. Our water tanker has responded to 12 incidents including, multiple fire alarm activations, vegetation fires and a bonfire. The water tanker is a first response appliance for rural areas in the Rotorua District without hydrant water supply.
The Lake Okareka Rural Fire Force needs to acquire a new fire appliance, as our current fire appliance, a 1979 Dodge RG15, is continually failing its Certificate of Fitness and in January last year, failed its pump pressure test. This 33 year old appliance has been in our fire force for 12 years and is well overdue for replacement, as it now poses a significant risk to the safety of our volunteers and the effectiveness of responding to emergencies. The Rotorua District Council has graciously provided $60,000 towards a new appliance and is applying for funding from the National Rural Fire Authority. Our organisation is seeking funding from the following trusts; Bay Trust , First Sovereign Trust Limited, Four Winds Foundation LTD, Grassroots Trust, Infinity Foundation LTD, New Zealand Community Trust, NZ Lotteries, Rotorua Trust, The Lion Foundation, The Southern Trust and Youthtown Incorporated.
Rotorua District Council and the Lake Okareka Rural Fire Force have looked at a variety of fire appliances to replace our current one. The most suitable fire appliance is the Fraser SA Type 34 Heavy Pumper as it provides both rural and urban capabilities. Lake Okareka is situated on what is termed the ‘Rural Urban Interface’. In 1994 reticulated water was commissioned in Lake Okareka, supplying approximately 260 residential properties and 37 fire hydrants with water. This differs from both Lake Tarawera and Lake Rotoiti and is why Lake Okareka requires a different fire appliance, which has the capability of receiving water from fire hydrants.
The Fraser Type 34 has a large 3,000 litre water tank which is fantastic for when fire hydrants are inaccessible. The GAAM Mk450 pump provides water for two 25mm high pressure hose reels and two 65mm low pressure outlets. The benefits of having both high and low pressure systems on a fire appliance allows larger hoses to carry a larger volume of water, which in turn allows more water to travel over a greater distance without a decrease in pressure. However, larger hoses are heavy and harder to move. The smaller the hose the smaller volume of water and therefore require higher pressure to deliver the same volume of water. However, they are lighter, easier to manoeuvre and control, but lack the distance of larger hoses. There is also one 41mm hose delivery, a front mounted spray bar and fire fighting monitor (roof water cannon) to extinguish inaccessible fires. Additional features include foam systems, in cab breathing air systems, low water level alarms, lighting mast and full emergency siren and lighting system.
An alternative fire appliance is the Fraser SA Medium Pumper. This appliance would be invaluable to the Lake Okareka Community and Rotorua District. However, it is more suited for the urban environment because it features a 2,000 litre water tank, six equipment lockers, a 60 litre foam system and both high and lower pressure hose systems. Furthermore, it is an additional $85,000 more than the Fraser Type 34 Heavy Pumper.
For anyone who is interested in making a donation to the brigade or wanting to contact us, please don’t hesitate to phone me on 362 8874.
Chief Fire Officer