Dry Hawkes Bay has suffered a season of plantation and vegetation fires while trying to maintain usual response and calls including regular structure fires and greater alarm events.
The NZPFU Local had called for relief crews as professional career firefighters were working excessive hours without a break. The Local and National Union had to fight to get the necessary relief to ensure the protection of the community was maintained. Appropriate staffing levels, fatigue management and ensuring safe systems of work should be key priorities for management and the Union should not have to plea for the necessary resources. In comparison, volunteer crews in central Hakes Bay were provided with relief and additional firefighters without having coming up against the same wall of resistance.
Eventually FENZ agreed to send additional personnel to relieve the professional career firefighters and the arrival of task force firefighters was a welcome sight for the exhausted Hawkes Bay crews. Below is a letter that the Hawkes Bay Local President Mike Manning has sent to Wellington Local Secretary Alan Collett expressing their gratitude.
On behalf of our members we want to convey our sincere gratitude and thanks to your members for answering the call and coming up to assist us mitigate the recent plantation and vegetation fires.
To deploy requires a great deal of logistics and planning / intel work, notwithstanding our members having to arrange their personal and home lives too. Your members arrived and immediately set to work relieving our fatigued workforce.
Al your staff did the grunt work supporting us through fire ground overhaul, re-commissioning via washing and testing countless lengths of hose and of course running calls alongside us as we cross crewed our fleet - this included several greater alarm events.
It is important that we formally acknowledge the contribution made by the Wellington Task Force Commanders - AAC Gold and Hughes.
Both Gareth and Craig worked collaboratively with our Local Executive keeping us informed via briefings every shift and through this cordial relationship we were able to put sound process in place.
These events are totally predictable - hot dry windy weather is forecasted and our fire weather indices skyrocketed and to be fair they still are. We had been requesting relief and support for some weeks, unfortunately but not surprisingly we were not supported by FENZ hierarchy at a National level. With our members coming off 30hr shifts we sat with our local commanders to engage the higher ups and invoked the fatigue policy thus forcing the issue, we were totally dismayed to find that Regional and National Management placed roadblocks and caveats in the way, thus delaying the help arriving.
We have requested via our National Executive through to OER a review of our entire season where we will engage independent investigators to un-pack the shambles with a focus being around welfare and fatigue with a view to building a robust and consistent deployment model for future use.
Al please convey our sincerest thanks to your members for their professionalism, once again our urban career staff showed how we can adapt and mitigate all types of event that come our way - that is why we set the bar so high.
On behalf of the members of the Hawkes Bay Local,
Michael N Manning