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Whole Country Update

Good afternoon all
Our adaptability has been thoroughly tested over the past six months with the Kaikoura earthquake response, and vegetation fires of the kind we usually see in Australia or the United States, in Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay.
These incidents have presented us with a number of difficult challenges, made all the more complicated by significant political and public scrutiny due to their scale. So it has been really great to see the way urban and rural have come together with neighbouring crews and our partner agencies to combat these fires together.
There have also been some long nights from those working ‘behind the scenes’ to coordinate the necessary logistics and incident support – and we’re very grateful to all involved for your commitment to getting the job done.
Together you’ve shown yet again why firefighters are regularly voted New Zealand’s most trusted profession. Your efforts were widely acknowledged by MPs at the second reading of the FENZ Bill in Parliament last week, and the public endorsement speaks for itself with thousands of positive comments shared on social media, and home-cooked meals donated to the frontline.
However, we’ve also seen tragedy with the loss of helicopter pilot David Steven Askin, known to most as ‘Steve’. Regardless of his role or uniform, Steve was just one of many who stepped forward to serve their community. Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and workmates.
Fortunately there have been no further fatalities or serious injuries reported, so our thanks to all of you for looking after each other and keeping safety at the forefront in difficult and dangerous conditions.
There will always be lessons learned with incidents of this scale, but it’s premature to be drawing any conclusions at this stage. Proper consideration needs to be given to all the facts once the incident is over. In the meantime, the battle’s not totally won in Christchurch yet, and that’s where the focus needs to be.
On top of everything else, building engineers advised us last week that further remediation is required for the building that houses the Fire Service's National Headquarters (NHQ). As a precautionary measure, all NHQ staff are working remotely as best they can while we wait for the engineers’ full report.
We won’t know when we’ll be able to re-occupy the building until we have this report. In the meantime we’re working on temporary arrangements to ensure minimum disruption to our business as usual and the transition to FENZ.
None of which is ideal timing in the lead-up to Fire And Emergency NZ starting on 1 July but that’s in keeping with the nature of what we do.
So thanks again to everyone for getting on with the job, in spite of everything Mother Nature has thrown at us.
Paul McGill
Deputy National Commander, New Zealand Fire Service
Kevin O’Connor
National Rural Fire Officer, National Rural Fire Authority