Praise for stretched firefighters
South Canterbury fire brigades had their busiest day on record dealing with Tuesday's extreme winds.
Crews dealt with more than 100 calls between 2pm and late evening.
Acting area manager Steven Greenyer said with Timaru stations answering 42 callouts, Waimate 21, Temuka and Geraldine 11 each, Pleasant Point seven and St Andrews and Fairlie three apiece, he was confident it was the busiest day the local brigades had experienced.
The only incidents which would have produced anywhere near that number of calls were the South Canterbury floods in 1986 and the Canterbury-wide gales in 1975.
All South Canterbury brigades with the exception of Twizel and Lake Tekapo were called out on Tuesday to incidents ranging from downed powerlines and damaged buildings to vegetation and building fires.
The majority of the calls were received between 2pm and 7.30pm. As the storm moved north, so did the fire crews, with two Timaru crews going to Ashburton to assist with callouts late into the evening. One crew was back in Timaru by 10pm, the second arrived home three hours later.
Mr Greenyer said there were still calls coming in yesterday morning, but they were generally requests for assistance with cleanup work and dealing with small fires.
In spite of the conditions staff had faced, there were no injuries.
"We were very fortunate as they were working in some quite adverse conditions.
"There were powerlines down in Ashburton.
"We did have a tanker door ripped off," Mr Greenyer said of an incident in Aorangi Rd at Washdyke.
Firefighters had been dealing with a scrub fire at the time. The force of the wind was such that when one man got out of the vehicle the door was whipped out of his hand and ripped off the vehicle.
The occupants of a Winchester home told the fire crew the wind virtually sucked the contents of their fire up the chimney, depositing embers and sparks into an adjacent building and setting the garage alight.
Mr Greenyer paid tribute to the volunteer firefighters who spent many hours at incidents, as well as off-duty paid firefighters who returned to work to crew spare appliances. Their returning to work enabled Timaru to put an additional four fire engines on the road.
- © Fairfax NZ News