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Firefighters worry about Makara amateurs

Sep 5th, 2010 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

By Jonathon Chilton-Towle and Amie Hickland
 
Professional fire fighters are dampening enthusiastic Makara residents who want to do their own fire fighting.
 
ON FIRE: Ted Comper Smith at the Karori Community Policing Centre where he assists. Photo: Amie Hickland

ON FIRE: Ted Comper Smith at the Karori Community Policing Centre where he assists. Photo: Amie Hickland

Resident Ted Comper Smith, 82, wants to set up a water pump so locals can help fight fires, but firefighters warn they could be criminally liable for injury or property damage.

The issue was raised for the first time at the latest Makara/Ohariu Board meeting by principal rural rire officer (PRFO) Jock Darragh.

Mr Comper Smith says when fires break out in Makara it can take up to 30 minutes for the fire brigade to turn up.

“If you can catch it [the fire] early – take early action, and save the house.”

Mr Comper Smith says Meridian Energy has provided funding for Makara community projects so that is where he would look at applying for the funding.

No concrete plans are in place for the fire fighting.

“Either we have a diesel driven pump on a trailer or a reel hose that would run out 100m [from a water source]… or a large storage tank on the hill.”

Mr Comper Smith says he would be willing to follow national guidelines but he thinks the government is trying to phase out rural volunteer fire fighters altogether.

“They fear that amateurs would be at risk,” he says. “It’s very difficult to argue against but if you go to the other extreme you would lie in bed all day.”

Mr Darragh addressed the board and said it is perfectly legal for the pump to be built, but if it’s going to be used for fire fighting it should be up to national standards.

“I hate to knock him back but I have good reason,” he says.

Mr Darragh says that anyone who wants to fight fires should have training and equipment which is up to national standards.

This includes $1000 of personal protective equipment (PPE), $3000-$4000 on a fire hose and at least 48 hours of training per person involved.

All up a full five-man fire fighting crew would cost $19,300 with proper equipment and training.

Mr Darragh also estimated that in an emergency the pump would take at least thirty minutes to set up, by which time the Karori fire brigade would have arrived.

“It is an admirable goal and these guys could save someone’s life, but in the worth case scenario it could end in tragedy.”

The Makara Community Board was in agreement with Mr Darragh but they said it was an issue for local people to deal with rather than a board decision.

Board chairman Ruth Paul has sent an email to members of the Makara/Ohariu community to continue discussion about the potential pump.

Mr Darragh says if Makara residents are not prepared to take on the responsibility of gaining qualifications and maintaining the equipment as suggested he could run some basic training for them outside his official role.

“But I still cannot support or endorse what they are doing as the PRFO and I will make sure they know that they are going to be fully responsible for their activities.

“If they are injured, or injure somebody else, or they damage property, they will be liable and in certain circumstances be liable for criminal charges.”

Professional fire fighters are dampening enthusiastic Makara residents who want to do their own fire fighting.

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