Fire teams turn up the heat!

Woodend Beach Forest was a hive of activity on Saturday afternoon as the district’s rural fire services were put through their paces in an exercise that involved 86 volunteers.

Civil Defence exercise

The event allowed the volunteers a practical opportunity to showcase their skills and awareness of the requirements for fighting a major fire, all the while being closely observed by senior Rural Fire Officers.

Volunteers are required to prove their operational competence regularly over time at real fires, on formal training courses and at informal training activities such as this exercise.

Saturday also gave the district’s senior firefighters the chance to conduct management level workshops, helping to equip them for the requirements of heading up a team fighting a large and complex blaze, which might be spread over a big area.

There was training also for Civil Defence personnel, around the level of support they supply during a major fire incident.

The bigger the event, the greater the likelihood that behind-the-scenes management will be required, to organize the crowds of spontaneous volunteers who invariably pitch up to help during an emergency.

While Civil Defence volunteers are trained in personnel management, the chance to work alongside their rural fire management counterparts added to their experience and preparation should the situation occur for real.

Such are the complexities of major fire events; there were eight different support agencies in ‘action’ during the exercise which gave them all the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the personnel and practices of their counterparts.

Woodend rural fire exerciseAs the Waimakariri District doesn’t have an extensive history dealing with large fires, the key outcome organisers were seeking was to ascertain whether the existing personnel had the capability, capacity and network relationships in order to respond effectively in the face of a major fire event.

That question was answered in the affirmative, with the day providing clear evidence that our Rural Fire and Civil Defence teams are well prepared for the task of protecting the community.

Crucially the exercise highlighted areas where system improvements can be made, providing the organisers with fertile territory as they look to further refine the district’s emergency procedures and operational plans.

Inevitably an exercise of this nature requires massive resourcing, in personnel, equipment and services. The organisers would like to thank the following for their contribution: Steve Askin (Way2Go Helicopters), Mark Reid (Independent Helicopters), Kevin Gardner (Protanz), Doug Watt and the Rapid Relief Canterbury Team, Wayne Hamilton (Rural Fire Solutions), Lyndsay Little (PSL Fire-Fighting Supplies), Paul Fechney, and Ric Marshall and Mike Nilsen (Signals NZ Ltd) as well as all of the other volunteers who gave up their time in the service of their community.