Stations get safety boost

UPGRADE PLANNED: The Parnell fire station is on the list for refurbishment.
UPGRADE PLANNED: The Parnell fire station is on the list for refurbishment.

A special design feature of new fire stations will make them safer for staff.

Fire stations across the country are being rebuilt and upgraded after an assessment of their condition and their likely safety in an earthquake as well as regional reviews looking at coverage and needs.

Firefighters' health is being considered too.

They are at a greater risk of certain types of cancer because of exposure to contaminants at fires, which can stay on their bodies once they have left a scene.

The new Parnell fire station will have red and green zones, meaning there will be a separate area for decontamination after a job.

"They do not take their dirty boots and their dirty gear into the green zone of the station, they stay in the red zone and shower, send their gear off for cleaning and wipe down the inside of the trucks," Auckland City Fire Area's assistant manager of operations Roger Callister says.

"Risks can be easily contained by cleaning up as fast as possible after exposure.

"It's a two-pronged approach of managing exposure on the ground and then getting cleaned up as soon as possible to prevent other staff coming in from being exposed."

The red and green zone layout will be included in all the stations being upgraded and the Fire Service will look at implementing it at those stations that are already completed.

The Parnell station was built in 1956 and the design does not accommodate modern fire appliances or the specialist equipment the station holds, Mr Callister says.

Its roof and sewerage system are also in need of repair.

The station now covers the Ports of Auckland and works closely with the Coastguard, Police Maritime Unit and Westpac rescue helicopter.

A date for the work has not been set because the Fire Service is still in the early design phase.

The service is also waiting for final resource consent to rebuild the Ponsonby fire station on a site in Grey Lynn.

The Auckland City station is also scheduled for work but not for at least three years.

"One of the things that slowed down the renovations and build project throughout the country is the Canterbury earthquakes," Mr Callister says.

In November the Fire Service announced its plans to build seven stations in Christchurch at a cost of about $80 million.

"That represents a significant amount of money that has to be found which means here in Auckland we need to put up with it for a little bit longer."

The Fire Service will also need to consult the Auckland Council on the heritage status of the Parnell building.

East And Bays Courier