Thanks to everyone for adhering to the Total Fire Ban that has been imposed by the Rotorua District Council. We have not had a fire-related call-out in our local area since this was instigated.
However, we have attended four vegetation fires outside of our area. Some of these have been quite major requiring 40+ firefighters, helicopters with monsoon buckets, and other resources. The latest of these incidents was at Waiotapu at the beginning of March. Thank you to Okareka members who gave up their Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday to help control and extinguish this blaze, and also for similar time spent at the Reporoa fire prior to Christmas.
In late January, I was deployed, along with a Timberlands crew, as part of a New Zealand Rural Fire Response Team to Great Barrier Island (I always wanted an overseas deployment!). We were away for 8 days fighting a 120 hectare scrub fire on the eastern side of the island. We spent the first few days cutting firebreaks up to 40 metres wide and several kilometres in length. We then focused on extinguishing flare-ups, which was followed by methodical grid-searching for hot spots, aided by thermal imaging cameras, with the crews walking up to 20kms a day. Hot 30 knot winds and dense bush made this work arduous and heavy-going (a good way to lose that Christmas paunch!). The hospitality on the Barrier was second-to-none with locals pulling out all stops to ensure we were well looked after. Fortunately, the containment measures put in place ensured no homes were lost.
As always, these deployments continue to provide invaluable experience in dealing with various fire situations and incident co-ordination which can be put into practice within our own district.
Please continue to be vigilant and call 111 at the first sign of any smoke. As proven in recent incidents, any delay can result in a small fire getting quickly out of control and desecrating several hectares of bush and property.
Regardless of whether we get any rain or not, the lighting of any fire is prohibited until further notice by RDC.
By way of a quick update on the new fire appliance, I recently drove to Wellington to deliver equipment to Fraser Engineering for the final fit-out of the truck. We are now anticipating delivery of the appliance later in March.
For anyone wanting to contact the Fire Force:
Please phone me on 3628 874
Go to our website: www.okarekaruralfire.com
You can also follow us on www.facebook.com/okarekaruralfire
Chief Fire Officer