Rural Fire News - January 2016

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2016.  The end of 2015 was a very busy period for all crews belonging to WRFD, with a number of large forest fires as well as a general increase in other incidents across the district.

Health and Safety

The busy season has also resulted in an increase in reported incidents.  Being busy is no excuse for not being safe.

One near miss recorded at a fire where due to a change in weather and fire conditions, crews and appliances were forced to leave a skid site promptly.  While there were no injuries, a length of forestry hose had to be left behind which was burnt over.

An incident occurred at a fire where a person drove around warning cones placed to block access along a road.

One accident recorded involving a contractor.  While moving the Riversdale trailer on to the ute towing coupling, he caught his fingers between the trailer and the coupling.  A new adjustable jockey wheel is to be fitted to the trailer.

It has also been recorded on two occasions VRFF and NZFS crews have been at incidents and not in full PPE. Those involved have been enlighten to the dangers this exposes them too and corrective action taken.  All personnel must wear all their PPE at all incidents.


Fire Activity

Fire activity pre-Christmas was very busy for most VRFF crews across the district. The very dry spring conditions resulted in a number of large fires:

·         First was the ‘Erindale’ fire where 35 ha of standing trees and slash was burnt.  This involved NZFS, VRFF crews from Tinui and Castlepoint as well as VRFF members from Mauriceville and forestry contractors;

·         The Petrie fire where 2.5 ha of mid-aged pines were burned.  NZFS, Mauriceville VRFF and forestry contractors attended this fire;

·         At the end of November a fire in a forestry block at Whareama burned approximately 200 ha of mixed aged pines.  This fire saw local NZFS and VRFF crews and forestry crews working alongside a number of national Rural Fire Response Teams and a National Incident Management Team over a 10 day period. 

·         The Erindale Fire and Whareama Fire are still being monitored for hot-spots.


A big thank you from the Petrie family to those that responded and helped with their fire.


VRFF Responses to Incidents.   (1 July to 31 December 2015)



4x Vege’ fires (plus several times back to Erindale). 1x medical (LZ)

Lake Ferry

8x Vege’ fires. 3x medical (LZ) 1x MVA


4x Vege’ fire.7x MVA. 2x Structure. 1 X Machinery. 3 x Medical


1x Vege

Riversdale Beach

1 x vege. 2 x Medical. 1 x MVA


1x Vege. 1 x Medical


3x Vege’ (several times back to Erindale). 5 x MVA. 1 x Medical. 1 x Powerline


3x Medical assist, 1x MVA . 2x ‘special assistance’




In the lead up to the 2015-2016 fire season a number of VRFF crews and forestry contractors attended and completed various training sessions and refreshers.  Courses attended and those completing training is shown below:



Unit Standard

Number of Courses Run

Number of People Qualified

Organisations Involved

First Aid





Fire Environment






20386, 3270, 21417




Personal Safety at Vege’ Fire




VRFFs, Taratahi, CDC IFS, TreeScape, JNL,

Dry Fire Techniques





Water & additives Use





Crew Leader




VRFFs, Tararua, IFS, DOC, JNL


497, 17593



VRFFs, DOC, Wichman, Horne, JNL, TE Silvi’ NZFE





VRFFs, DOC, Wichman, Horne, JNL, TE Silvi’ NZFE

Radio Use




VRFFs, DOC, Wichman, Horne, JNL, TE Silvi’ NZFE




With the completion of the training above a number of volunteer and contract fire fighters have completed qualifications and have been awarded certificates.

Congratulations and well done to:




NZ / National Cert Fire & Rescue L2


Fire Fighter


FF & PO*


Pump Operator (TS2A)

Crew Leader






Craig Ellmers


Lake Ferry




Scott MacDonald






Richard Laing






Eric Barber


Wichman Silviculture





Vaatau Wichman

Phillip Blong

Craig Reiri







Jack Waru


Woodnet/Mauriceville VRFF




Colin Bradley



Rob has published the 2016 WRFD training calendar.  This has been circulated to all VRFF members and others in the lower North Island. A number of the proposed courses have limited spaces so if you are interested in doing some training contact Rob for further information. 


  WRFD Remote Access Weather Stations (RAWS)

The Ngaumu RAWS station has been moved to a new location on Brancepeth Station.  Data from this new site is available on our web site and through Harvest.  We are waiting on the final testing from Eco-Connect for the data to be available on the NRFA FWI sites.

All the RAWS have had their annual checks and calibrations completed.  For current live weather information across the Wairarapa District, go to our web site



  • The annual pump performance testing has been completed on all fire pumps and equipment.
  • The Tinui Landcruiser has been decommissioned and has found a new home via Trade Me.
  • A Pager turn out system has been installed at Riverdale Beach, and the Castlepoint system has been relocated to a new site to improve coverage for VRFF members there.  All WRFD VRFF volunteers are now on pager turnout for all notifications.  This is a big improvement for all the volunteers.


National Wajax Competition

The High Country Fire Team is running the NZ National Wajax Competitions this year over Easter weekend in Christchurch.  This is the first time in 5 years that it has been run.  The event will be held in Shirley, Christchurch.  The event is within walking distance of accommodation and event HQ where the prize giving and event evening meal will be held, and is within walking distance to bars, restaurants, café’s, movie theatres and large shopping mall.

Contact WRFD for the entry form and rules.  The High Country team want to make this the biggest and best event to revive this once amazing challenge of skills.



The new NRFA national campaign slogan has been used over the summer, it has generated some good feedback.


Fire Smart

FireSmart is a community based programme that aims at helping communities identify their fire risk and taking some simple steps to keep themselves safe.  The FireSmart program teaches people ways to reduce the risk of a wildfire occurring on their property thereby giving homes the best chance of surviving a fire.

A number of rural communities have been invited to take up the Fire Smart programme.  More information on FireSmart can be found at or contact the WRFD team at the office.

A property owner who left their house during the Whareama Fire made the right decision early and left a great note taped to the inside of the door window.

The note gave fire fighters information on who lived there, when they left, where they had gone, the contact details

and that there was no one or pets left at the house. This forward planning and awareness saved a lot of time for those involved.

The house was in the direct threat from the fire if the fire had continued to spread.



It is pleasing to see we have recently received eight applications from people wanting to join the VRFFs.  Many of these have been as a direct result of active recruiting by existing VRFF Controllers and other crew members. 


WRFD welcomes new members:

  • Russell Busby and Mike Firth at Tora VRFF
  • Wayne Jephson at Ngawi VRFF
  •  Svend Anderson at Riversdale Beach VRFF
  • John Robertson at Tinui VRFF
  • Reuben Tipoki at Lake Ferry VRFF
  • Colin Bradley at Mauriceville VRFF
  • Sam Algie at Castlepoint VRFF


General Business

The reviewed WRFD Fire Plan has been ratified by WRFD Board and copies have been distributed. The WRFD Incident Management Team personnel list was also reviewed.

A reminder to all crews it may sometimes be appropriate to not use additives (accepting fire control measures might not be as effective as would be with additive use).  This may include fire-fighting around waterways/stock water supplies, nutrient sensitive ecosystems, organic farms, grass (only) fires, on stock food (hay or baleage), where the corrosive nature of foam might damage equipment, or on DOC land (unless authorised).

The El Nino weather system did not have the impact that was forecasted over the Christmas period.  Occasional rain arrived across the district on a number of days, and the lack of wind has allowed the ground to retain some of this moisture.

It is still forecast that February and March are going to be hot and dry.

WRFD went into a restricted fire season on the 15th December and is monitoring the fire danger levels and fire conditions across the district daily and will change the fire season status as required.


Regards from:

Phill Wishnowsky, PRFO; Grant Davies, Community and Education Coordinator; Rob Hood, Operations Manager; and Sally McKay, Administration Assistant.