Fire party formed at Houhora
A fire party was formed at a public meeting called at Houhora on Monday night, when 13 men enrolled as volunteer members.
The meeting was held at Evans’ Hall, and a fairly small but keen number of residents attended. The meeting was chaired by Mr. A. U. Wagener, and Mr. J. Hensley acted as secretary. Previous correspondence between the Settlers’ Association and the Mangonui County Council was read.
The county council were prepared to back such an organisation when formed as far as possible.
Mr. D. J. Ogle, head of the Aupouri State Forest area, also addressed the meeting, and what he said was of great assistance.
On a motion put to the meeting it was unanimously decided to form a fire party for the area. Volunteers were called for to form the nucleus of the organisation, and altogether 13 men enrolled.
This was a good start. It was decided to add to the number as required.
Two volunteers have had previous experience as members of fire brigades, Mr. B.B. Allison, formerly a member of the Hamilton City Fire Brigade, and Mr. F. K. H. Skerritt, formerly a member of the Eastbourne Volunteer Fire Brigade for a number of years when he was a young man.
They were elected Chief Fire Officer and Deputy Chief Fire Officer respectively of the newly formed fire party.
Mr. Hensley was elected secretary and was requested to write to the county council informing them of the formation of the organisation, and requesting details of what assistance, particularly in the form of equipment, which could be supplied.
A reliable mobile water pump and a mobile water tank are essential, and a pump fitted so that it may be used both from the mobile water tank and from other water sources available, is desirable.
The fire party realise that the county will be unable to supply all the appliances and gear so essential to efficiently combat large or advanced fires, and no doubt the generous support of the residents of the area will be required before all essential equipment can be purchased.
However, when a reply is received from the county council as to what assistance can be given, the organisation will be able to study the matter of finance and assistance required more fully.
All services of the fire party will be voluntary and free, so it may be expected that the residents will be willing to assist to protect their own property from the disaster and loss that fire can cause.
In large fires assistance can, and will, be obtained from the Forest Department and the Kaitaia Volunteer Fire Brigade, but as they are so far away equipment and trained operators on the spot are a “must” in the district.
Over the past few years the Houhora area has progressed and the population and dwellings in the district have increased, especially within the past 12 months, and it appears the growth will accelerate from now on.
At the moment probably the greatest fire hazard is scrub fires endangering most dwellings in the district, particularly Pukenui, Houhora, and Raio.
All these areas are steadily growing. Not only are water appliances required, but beaters, slashers etc. for fighting scrub fires where water is not available. Also “first aid” equipment for combating small fires in buildings before they become big fires.
Such equipment does less damage to the contents of buildings than water, and can often be used if the fire is attacked early.
Each fireman also requires to be equipped with belt and axe at least, and where smoke is heavy in burning buildings there are times when it cannot be attacked inside without at least two respirators for the branchmen to wear.
So it is not cheap to equip a fire fighting force with even the minimum requirements to carry out the work of saving lives and property in an efficient manner. It is too late to regret it after the damage is done.
What about it, Aupouri residents? You now have the men and they require your support. Mr. Wagener or Mr. Hensley will be glad to hear from you.
Next Saturday morning members of the fire party will attend the State Forest Headquarters at the invitation of Mr. Ogle to watch a demonstration of their firefighting equipment.
— March 28, 1969