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Firefighters sound alarm over more cost cutting

First tyres, now firefighting equipment suffer from Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) cost cutting.

Just days ago, it was a fight over the fitting of cheap inferior tyres forcing firefighters to reduce their emergency response speeds. This week sees aerial appliances in a state of disrepair from years of neglect through cost cutting and a lack of strategy in maintenance and replacement of these vital pieces of firefighting and rescue equipment.

The Auckland heavy aerial appliance fleet has been reduced from five trucks 20 years ago, to just two trucks plus one relief appliance (that covers both Auckland and Hamilton) today. Of the two, one is undergoing repairs and maintenance. The relief appliance isn't properly garaged when not in use - kept outside where the elements unique to our part of the world have full effect. This relief vehicle is broken for the second time in as many weeks leaving a single appliance to respond to rescues and major fires across the whole of greater Auckland.

Fire bosses have ordered training to be halted and the response of the remaining aerial appliance to emergency incidents has been restricted for fear of the appliance breaking down. This decision would be unprecedented in a city of Auckland’s size anywhere else in the developed world.

These heavy aerial appliances are primarily used for rescuing people from high buildings when their means of escape from fire is compromised, as well as giving firefighters an alternative means of escape or the capability of directing bulk water when fighting large commercial and industrial fires.

The lack of these resources was clearly demonstrated by the recent industrial fire at Simms Metals earlier this year, where it took 3-days to put the fire out, as well as the two major fires at the Southdown industrial complex, where each fire took 5-days to extinguish. This was partly a result of the lack of these specialist appliances, with their ability to direct and pour copious quantities of water onto a fire from height. At both the Southdown fires, the sole heavy aerial appliance from Hamilton was deployed to assist, leaving that city without adequate fire and rescue resourcing.

This situation, for a large metropolitan city like Auckland, is inexcusable and with the current lack of preventive maintenance, breakages, and no strategy for improvement, replacement or addition to the Auckland (and Hamilton) heavy aerial fleets, is a totally unacceptable circumstance.

FENZ is spending millions on its’ amalgamation with Rural Fire through rebranding, new signage, uniform, stationery etc, at the expense of frontline rescue firefighting equipment again; putting the public and firefighters lives at risk. They are spending vast sums on cosmetics when they should be focusing more on the fundamentals of adequate and appropriate resources.

The population of, as well as the number and scale of buildings in Auckland has at least doubled in the last 30-years, yet the number of these heavy aerial appliances, which should have increased correspondingly given the associated increase in fire risk, has been reduced from five to just two. This is certainly evident in the ability of firefighters to extinguish these recent large scale fires effectively in timely fashion.

ENDS

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