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Fire & Emergency release Independent Review of Tasman Fires

Fire and Emergency New Zealand has today released the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council (AFAC) Independent Operational Review of its management of last summer’s Tasman fires.

Speaking from Richmond Fire Station near Nelson, Deputy Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley said Fire and Emergency NZ welcomed the independent review and fully accepted its findings.

"We commissioned the independent review because of the extent of the Tasman fires and the magnitude of our response. We are committed to using every opportunity to improve our fire management for the safety of the community and our firefighters," Raewyn Bleakley said.

"The review is constructive and timely for us as a new organisation. The establishment of Fire and Emergency NZ was the first critical step towards addressing the lessons from Port Hills. It brought together 40 separate organisations and 14,000 people, and since then we have been focused on how we can more effectively work with other organisations and agencies during wildfires and other emergency responses."

Fire and Emergency NZ National Commander and Deputy Chief Executive of Service Delivery, Kerry Gregory said, "It is pleasing the independent reviewers found Fire and Emergency New Zealand has taken lessons from the Port Hills fire and shown it was able to manage such an extreme and extensive incident working with our partner organisations.

"Since then we have streamlined our incident management systems, undertaken regular training exercises with partner agencies to ensure consistency, and learned to work together more effectively.

"New initiatives, such as our Local Advisory Committees, and customised local operational plans will be an integral part of helping us build stronger and more resilient communities and plan for their future needs.

"The next step is to develop an action plan which will identify how we can incorporate the Review findings into our work programmes. We expect to have that completed by the end of this year."

Fire and Emergency NZ will publish regular progress reports on that work from next year.

Background

On 5 February 2019 a fire started in Pigeon Valley near Nelson which went on to burn over 2300 Hectares including significant areas of pine plantation.

Civil Defence declared a state of emergency on 6 February. This was not lifted until 27 February.

It took local, regional and national resources to fight the Pigeon Valley fire. At its peak, Fire and Emergency NZ deployed 23 helicopters, 2 fixed wing aircraft, 23 heavy machines and more than 150 firefighters.

The fires cost Fire and Emergency NZ around $13 million.

Approximately 3000 people and 700 livestock and pets were evacuated.

At the same time, other fires broke out at Rabbit Island, Atawhai, Moutere Hill and Dovedale Hill.

These extra fires significantly added to the complexity fire managers already faced.

The AFAC Independent Operational Review was conducted on behalf of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council (AFAC) by a team with broad and varied experience of structure fires, wildfire management and aviation operations in both Australia and New Zealand. They did extensive fieldwork and spoke to many people involved in the Tasman fires to write their report.


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