Top speed response
When the interisland ferries are terminalbound by big seas, Wellington Airport’s firefighters are likely to take their boats out to train.
Airport fire service head Vinnie Sharp said there is water at both ends of Wellington’s runway, so staff have to be ready to fight fire on water as well as on land, at any time and in any conditions.
In the Aviation Fire Service building at the airport, alongside the fire tenders, two substantial fire rescue boats wait on their trailers, with their tow vehicles alway warmed up, ready to go.
‘‘We are actually the closest to Cook Strait; time is of the essence here,’’ he said.
‘‘From the time the alarm goes we can have this boat backing off the trailer ready to go in four minutes.’’
As well as watching over the surrounding water, the aviation fire service attends between 600 and 700 emergency call- outs each year.
The most frequent reason is medical emergency at the airport.
‘‘ We’re there danger.
is involved or not, the crew will go,’’ he said.
The firefighters are all trained to prehospital medical care level and if first aid is all that is required they will treat patients and send them on their way.
If more is needed, they will deal with the emergency, and prepare the patient for transfer to Wellington Hospital.
Mr Sharpe said 80 per cent of aircraft incidents happened on or near the airport.
The service has four emergency vehicles, two of them high performance fire tenders. In the case of aircraft crash, the crew will get there as quickly as possible and lay a bed of foam to suppress fire, creating survivable conditions and allowing passengers to escape. The service’s response time is tested at least monthly.
‘‘We have be at the far end of the runway in three minutes,’’ Mr Sharp said.
Always prepared: One of Wellington Airport’s two fire rescue vessels in action in heavy weather.