Fire and Emergency marks two years since Port Hills

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Fire and Emergency marks two years since Port Hills

The two fires that broke out on 13 February 2017 eventually merged and burnt through more than 2000 hectares of land. Firefighters worked to save more than 90 homes, but nine homes were lost and five others were damaged. The fire took 66 days to fully extinguish.

In November 2017 an independent operational review of the Port Hills event, conducted by Alan Goodwin of the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authority Council (AFAC), made a series of recommendations to improve how the newly unified Fire and Emergency New Zealand should operate.

Fire and Emergency’s National Manager Rural, Kevin O’Connor, says since then significant progress has been made on the subsequent “Port Hills Action Plan”, which has helped position us well for responding to fires such as the Pigeon Valley fire near Nelson.

“One action from the Port Hills Action Plan was to determine how we more effectively work with other organisations and agencies during wildfires and other emergency responses,” says Mr O’Connor.

“All reports and feedback received to date for Pigeon Valley indicate NZ Defence Force, Department of Conservation, forestry contractors, forest growers, Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM), local government, Fire and Emergency and the impacted communities have all worked together very effectively in their respective well defined areas/roles, and that the coordination and collaboration amongst the agencies has been very good.

“Another action from the Port Hills Action Plan was to improve how we work with Police and Civil Defence on managing cordons and communicate with the public during incidents. 

“Feedback to date for Pigeon Valley is that community messaging has been thorough and cohesive.”

Tomorrow marks two years since the tragic death of Steve Askin, the helicopter pilot who lost his life in a crash while he was fighting the Port Hills fires.

“Steve was part of the firefighting community and is missed by those who knew him. Our thoughts are with his family,” says Mr O’Connor.