Introduction

The massive Canterbury and West Coast Regional Rural Fire Exercise is heating things up.

Against a backdrop of snow-dusted peaks and virgin bush, the massive Canterbury and West Coast Regional Rural Fire Exercise turned up the heat in the Castle Hill basin over 13, 14 and 15 October.

Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson, talks to DOC's Canterbury Fire Officer, Tony Teeling, about the challenge.
Minister of Conservation, Kate Wilkinson, talks to DOC's Canterbury Fire Officer, Tony Teeling, about the challenge

Thursday's winning team DOC South Malborough.
Thursday's winning team DOC South Malborough

With a strong emphasis on encouraging leadership and fostering national relationships between crews, the sentiment for the first day was defined at the crack of dawn by Incident Controller (Waimakariri District Council’s Emergency Response Advisor) Brennan Wiremu who concluded his morning briefing with, “Good luck and good fire fighting”.

Certainly luck has nothing to do with succeeding in this year’s innovative challenges, but good fire fighting has everything to do with it. The ninth event of its kind, the competitive fire exercise is growing by the year with approximately 100 fire personnel expected to be involved each day.

Principal Rural Fire Officer for South Canterbury, Rob Hands, says in the last five years the event has doubled its capacity to accommodate more crews who come from all over New Zealand to be part of the challenge.

“We start planning for next year the day after we finish the exercise.”

And while the Rogaine-style, multi-faceted tasks demand spontaneity and quick thinking on behalf of the participants, there is no fortuity involved with the preparations. The crew’s tasks are designed to challenge participants both mentally and physically and are based on two key objectives:

  1. To build and maintain effective multi-agency coordination between emergency services and their support organisations.
  2. To provide multi-agency personnel with the opportunity to either train, practise or demonstrate their emergency management competencies in a collaborative environment.

Event organiser, DOC’s Tony Teeling says of the experience “we are building strength through inter-agency coordination on a regional and national level with crews from as far away as Northland participating.”

“For many of the fire-fighters taking part this year, the challenge holds particular significance as they were able to take this effective coordination and experience and apply it during the earthquake response,” Teeling concludes.

“After the past year’s events, no one underestimates the importance of this exercise.”

Winning crews:

Thursday: 1st DOC South Marlborough, 2nd Christchurch City Council Port Hills Rangers, 3rd DOC Raukapuka Rec

Friday: 1st DOC Waimak #1, 2nd DOC Aoraki #3, 3rd Retardants (DOC Mahaanui)

Saturday: 1st High Country Fellas (DOC high country volunteers), 2nd Albury (South Canterbury Rural Fire District), 3rd West Melton – The A-Team (Selwyn District Council)

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