Christchurch Firefighters Frustrated and Bewildered
The New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union, representing all career front line firefighters can reveal that Christchurch Fire Service Crews (career firefighters) were stood down and told to return to Stations while the catastrophic Christchurch fires continued to burn – said Derek Best, Secretary of the Union.
The Union can reveal that Rural Fire Officials in charge of the incident stood down all career firefighters battling the blaze. The order to stand down was given at nightfall in day one; leaving career firefighters frustrated, bewildered and disappointed.
The fire was left to burn out of control and the frustrated firefighters could see the flames from their Stations. Ninety minutes later, the alarm was re-raised and Christchurch firefighters responded back to find the fire had gained significant momentum and was seriously threatening many properties.
As a result of returning to the locality from which they had been stood down from, they saved at least six houses from total destruction – said Derek Best.
A further article from Stuff certainly confirms the need for an enquiry
Port Hills firefighter allegedly threatened with arrest for fighting blaze
Andy Nicholson says he was told he would be arrested if he didn’t stop fighting the fire on his rural Early Valley Road property.
Nicholson is part of a local fire brigade that was fighting the Port HIlls, Christchurch, fire on Monday night with a water tanker.
A video filmed by his 19-year-old son Robert shows him driving up to a neighbour’s house to try battle the blaze before realising the situation was too dangerous.
“The most important thing is to get to a fire early [but] by the time we got to Ken’s place this thing was astronomical. The fire had rocketed up to the edge [of the road]. It had engulfed everything.
* Analysis: What could have been done to stop the Port Hills blaze?
* Devastation of the Port Hills fires from above
* Firefighters were sent home early from Christchurch fire response
“We knew we couldn’t stop the fire so we got out of there.”
He went back to protect his own property, where there is now damage to his pasture and fences. Luckily his house and livestock made it through the fire unscathed.
But, he said, a policeman forced him to leave nevertheless, allegedly saying he would be arrested if he didn’t comply with the evacuation order.
(Read & see videos at the link)
Christchurch firefighters were told to “stand down” by Rural Fire officials and return to their stations on the first day fires started to engulf the Port Hills, the NZ Professional Firefighters Union says.
“The fire was left to burn out of control and the frustrated firefighters could see the flames from their stations,” Secretary Derek Best told 1 NEWS.
It wasn’t until 90 minutes later the alarm was raised to respond.
“As a result of returning to the locality from which they had been stood down from, they saved at least six houses from total destruction,” said the union. (TVNZ)
About 450 homes have been evacuated since the fires started burning on Monday, with eleven destroyed.
As a result of the stand down, the union says it is starting to question whether more houses could have been saved.
“The union and firefighters seriously question the tactical command decisions made and believes the tactics adopted were significantly flawed,” Mr Best said.
The union says there is an urgent need for a full and independent inquiry.
This is not right at all. Sending firefighters away? This is tragic. May justice be done, and a full and independent inquiry be conducted. What are the chances? We’ll see.