Fire and Emergency releases further Port Hills reports

Fire and Emergency New Zealand

Fire and Emergency releases further Port Hills reports

Two Port Hills fires broke on February 13 and merged before burning through 1,600 hectares of land and claiming nine homes and damaging five others. It took 66 days before it was declared fully extinguished.

In November an independent review made a series of recommendations to improve how Fire and Emergency New Zealand operates. Today it’s releasing the first progress report on those recommendations, along with the final Cause and Origin reports for the fires.

Chief Executive Rhys Jones says the creation of Fire and Emergency New Zealand last year has allowed a more coordinated response to emergencies.

“Fire and Emergency is a very significant opportunity to get our preparation for, response to, and recovery from emergencies, right,” says Rhys Jones.

 “We have made good progress with implementing the Action Plan, and are already responding to incidents in a more coordinated way. Our urban and rural firefighters are training together and with partner organisations on a regular basis. We are trialing community based approaches to fire risk assessment and prevention, and improving how we communicate with the public during incidents.

Rhys Jones says we are likely to see more fires like the Port Hills in the future.

“New Zealanders need to start thinking like Australians in terms of adapting our lifestyles to take into account the wild fire threat. Climate Change means we will get more extreme conditions, and we all need to be prepared. It’s important now, more than ever, we work together and do everything we can to be prepared,” he says.

“The Port Hills fires have reinforced we must respond early and respond heavily. We are here to save lives, and property if we can, so it’s crucial we respond in this way.”

Rhys Jones notes implementing a few of the recommendations have been delayed because the fire season began sooner than expected.

“We have prioritised responding to the unprecedented conditions in December, when fire risks were very high much earlier in the summer than usual. The need to address the risk of this summer’s fire season means completing some of the actions has been delayed by up to three months.

“We expect to be back on track before the next progress report in July.”

 The final Cause and Origin reports of the Early Valley and Marley’s Hill fires find the cause of each is undetermined. The lack of physical evidence or being able to interview anyone responsible has made it very difficult to determine the cause and origin conclusively. However, Fire and Emergency New Zealand believes both were deliberately lit and the matter remains in the hands of the police.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s investigation into the fires has been completed and is now closed. It will only reopen if new evidence comes to light.

 

View the reports


For information about what you can do to protect your property from the threat of wildfire, visit https://fireandemergency.nz/at-home/protect-your-home-from-outdoor-fires/