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Officer missing from fire

Job no longer exists

JOHN EDENS
Last updated 05:00 14/03/2014

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The Queenstown Lakes District Council's usual principal rural fire officer wasn't available during yesterday's fire at Jacks Pt because his job has been disestablished.

Frankton and Queenstown volunteers were called at 11.30am to a fire on scrub land beside the subdivision's golf course. Department of Conservation and rural firefighters arrived later to take over.

The blaze, believed to have been sparked by a ride-on mower, spread quickly through dry scrub fanned by northwest winds.

Crew onsite told The Southland Times there was some confusion establishing responsibility for the land and no-one knew who was acting as principal rural fire officer.

It emerged Gordon Bailey is no longer working for the council and the position has been temporarily filled by Ruth Stokes, the council general manager of operations, and three other staff.

Council senior communications adviser Michele Poole said the role was disestablished last week and Mr Bailey was pursuing other opportunities.

"The council is very grateful to the contribution Gordon made as principal rural fire officer."

Six regional rural fire authorities run by district councils will merge into one rural fire organisation, the Otago Enlarged Rural Fire District, on July 1.

"In the interim, the council has negotiated an arrangement with the Department of Conservation to act as first response on behalf of the council.

"Four staff members, including the general manager operations, have taken over the relationship with fire communications and our volunteer rural fire forces to ensure the council continues to respond effectively to rural fires until the Otago Enlarged Rural Fire District comes into effect."

A project recommending the amalgamation started in 2010 and was led by Central Otago District Council working with the National Rural Fire Authority, DOC and Otago rural fire organisations run by Central Otago, Queenstown Lakes, Clutha, Dunedin City and Waitaki district councils.

Fire Service safety officer Stu Ide said two helicopters, three engines and a 20-strong crew of volunteers fought the fire. Choppers used monsoon buckets filled from the artificial lake beside the clubhouse.

‘The fire's believed to have been started by a mower. At the time, Frankton arrived there was wind, it caused the fire to spread rapidly.

"[By 1.30pm] the fire was under control but the wind was a concern. The issue for us was the fire was spreading towards a property; they were quite concerned about that."

The fire was contained before it reached a water tank and was some distance from the built-up areas of the subdivision.

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DOC and rural firefighters mopped up afterwards. No homes were evacuated and golfers continued to play at the 18-hole golf course as firefighters worked.

 

- The Southland Times

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