Honing skills at firefighter challenge
Improving skills in a competitive atmosphere was the aim of the game at the annual Rural Fire Challenge at Castle Hill this year.
About 80 rural firefighters from across Canterbury put their skills to the test in the three-day event from September 22 to 24.
Elisa Karwowski, of the Department of Conservation (DOC), came from the North Island to compete with a Christchurch-based team.
‘‘It’s a great way to build up skills, and a good refresher going into the fire season. We wouldn’t get a challenge like this in the North Island – this is far more extensive.’’
Teams competed in 13 tasks, including ’’hot spotting’’ with a helicopter, working with heavy machinery, and a ‘‘super task’’ with 70-odd people.
Event manager Darrin Woods was thrilled with this year’s challenge, receiving only positive feedback from management and competitors.
‘‘It’s about multi-agency collaboration, developing effective working relationships, and emergency management services.’’
While hailed as a valuable training exercise, the challenge’s future is a little uncertain with a major overhaul of the country’s fire services set to come into effect from July 1 next year.
The New Zealand Fire Service, mainly responsible for urban parts of the country, will merge with the National Rural Fire Authority and more than 40 other rural fire services to create a single organisation – Fire and Emergency New Zealand.
Woods hoped the merger would not effect the challenge – which has been running for 16 years – and that it would only continue to improve over the coming years.
National Rural Fire Authority rural fire training manager Tony Roddan attended the challenge for the first time.
‘‘It was a lot more than I expected. I’m really, really impressed with the quality of the event.’’
The national authority was not involved in the organising of the event, but supported it, he said.
‘‘I think there’s great potential for this [type of] event to run across the country.’’
Rural firefighters from a range of organisations across Canterbury took part in the event, with a member of the Otago Rural Fire Authority coming from Oamaru.
The challenge was conducted on conservation and private land.
A DOC crew member extinguishes a fire during the challenge.