Thu 28 Feb 19.
Ruapehu EMO lends experience to Nelson fire response
Ruapehu Emergency Management Officer Nick Watson has returned from two weeks helping out with the Nelson rural fire response.
Council Chief Executive Clive Manley said that at times such as this it is literally “all hands to the pump” and Ruapehu was happy to assist in the best way we could which was to make Nick and his specialist skills available.
“Prior to Fire Emergency NZ (FENZ) taking over rural fire management and response it was the responsibility of local councils and so people like Nick who have a depth of knowledge and frontline experience in both rural fire and civil defence and emergency management have an invaluable skillset for situations such as this,” he said.
Mr Watson said that his initial role was in assisting within the Emergency Operating Centre (EOC) where the response to the fire is planned and coordinated and as a Liaison Officer between FENZ and Civil Defence.
“After being on the ground for a few days I was asked by the Incident Controller to work as a Divisional Commander out in the field where I had responsibility for three sectors in the Redwood Valley.
In this role I was working on the fire front coordinating the response of fire crews and heavy machinery to put out hot spots.
With the Nelson area being as dry as it is the fire can continue to burn and smoulder underground feeding off tree roots which presents a real difficulty in being able to locate these areas and put them out.
To help us we used special hand held and drone deployed thermal imaging equipment and had crews working through the night which made it easier to identify the hot spots.
The danger of the fire flaring up again was clearly demonstrated this week when residents from the Redwood Valley and along the Moutere Highway needed to be re-evacuated from their homes.
Unfortunately until the region gets a solid period of sustained rain fall local residents will need to be prepared for possible further disruption including the need to evacuate again at short notice.”
Mr Watson added that fire bans and restrictions are in place throughout the country and Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) is pleading with Kiwis to be vigilant during the extreme conditions.
Anyone wanting to light an outside fire should first check the FENZ website www.checkitsalright.nz “