New vehicle boosts district's fire safety

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 15/05/2014

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A new addition to Mackenzie's rural fire vehicle fleet will prevent "minor" fires from turning into "really serious ones".

South Canterbury Rural Fire officer Rob Hands said he was delighted the Mackenzie District Council finally approved the purchase.

The vehicle would cost about $20,000, and be "kitted out" with all the necessary features to respond to callouts.

"I really appreciate the council approving this purchase. I know they pride themselves on being prudent with their budget, but they also acknowledge the importance of our work in the district," Hands said.

"This is an essential purchase for us. It will cut down our response time significantly, and prevent a potentially minor incident becoming a major one."

Hands said the rural fire officer assigned to the Mackenzie District often had to use his own private vehicle to respond to incidents.

"It's not the most ideal situation. It can delay callouts as the officer assesses whether he can actually reach the event safely, as well as carry out his duties," he said.

Currently, the rural fire service has five dedicated fire engines in the Mackenzie.

There was a roster of around 30 volunteers, with the bulk of them based in Burkes Pass and Albury.

Hands said rural fire would respond to at least 50 callouts per year in the Mackenzie, but it would also assist the national service on a variety of calls.

"Most of the rural fire work concerns property and vegetation fires. We can be really stretched at times, because we're so reliant on our volunteers, some of whom are getting on a bit," he said.

Hands has previously said there were several instances where the team had to borrow a 4WD from the Department of Conservation to attend calls.

Last year, the council declined his request for funding for the 4WD vehicle.

"I've been back a couple of times to them since, we've finally reached an agreement. As you can understand, the previous situation was not ideal. Time is of the essence," he said.

Mackenzie jointly funds the rural fire service alongside Timaru and Waimate.

In its draft budget for the next financial year, more than $130,000 will be dedicated to the Mackenzie, about one-third of which is on general administration costs.

Councillors will formally approve the budget, subject to alterations, during its annual plan hearings.

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- The Timaru Herald

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