Invercargill firefighters warn aerial ladder not high enough for high-rise rescues

Green watch Invercargill firefighters carry out an aerial drill in Invercargill on Tuesday with the Menzies Building.  The firemen's union is concerned about the construction of taller buildings in the city, they don't have ladders tall enough to reach the upper levels.  The Menzies building will be renovated and extended by an additional level in the future.

Robyn Edie / Stuff

Green watch Invercargill firefighters carry out an aerial drill in Invercargill on Tuesday with the Menzies Building. The firemen’s union is concerned about the construction of taller buildings in the city, they don’t have ladders tall enough to reach the upper levels. The Menzies building will be renovated and extended by an additional level in the future.

The New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union says Invercargill’s tallest ladder at 17m is not tall enough to reach the top of new buildings being constructed in the city.

The Kelvin Hotel is 35 meters tall, and the Langlands Hotel under construction is expected to be about the same height.

Union Southland Secretary Aaron Ramsey said Invercargill had previously had an aerial device with a 30m scale, but had been upgraded to a newer model with a 17m scale at the early 2000s and had not been replaced since.

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Invercargill’s senior firefighter Brent Wilson said ‘you’d be lucky’ to get halfway to the new Langlands Hotel or HWR Group headquarters in Invercargill’s CBD using the current device .

“They’re really only useful as a water curtain between two buildings…for a rescue you’d be hard pressed to get someone out of the Grand Hotel with them as you park so far due to the heat from the radiator .”

“You don’t need it [the 30m ladders] often, but when you need it, you really need it.

Aaron Ramsey, senior fire station officer at Invercargill and NZPFU Southland secretary, said firefighters were taking industrial action because they were overworked, underpaid and had to manage trucks and gear that does not meet standards.

Robyn Edie / Stuff

Aaron Ramsey, senior fire station officer at Invercargill and NZPFU Southland secretary, said firefighters were taking industrial action because they were overworked, underpaid and had to manage trucks and gear that does not meet standards.

Fire Emergency Management New Zealand was asked if new construction in the city and firefighters only having access to aerial apparatus was a 17m ladder a concern, and they replied that it was rare that an aerial device helps in the evacuation of people from a burning building.

The FENZ spokesman said that at first, aerial fire apparatus are generally not used to fight fires in high-rise buildings where people live, because firefighters use the measures and the fire safety equipment inside the building, eg sprinkler systems, internal fire fighting water systems, protected entry and egress. ways.

Aerial fire apparatus were mainly used to deliver water from high on a fire, as a viewing platform, to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby buildings or to provide lighting, said the spokesperson.

The NZPFU and Fire and Emergency New Zealand have been in negotiations for over a year, with the NZPFU launching industrial action in June demanding better pay, an end to understaffing, better mental health support and more investments in infrastructure.

FENZ and NZPFU resumed collective bargaining in July, but the union announced negotiations had broken down and all firefighters would strike for one hour on August 19 and 26.

Following the strike announcement, FENZ Deputy National Commander Brendan Nally said FENZ had made a substantial new pay offer which would see base salaries for all firefighters increase between 8% and 19% over the course of of the next two years.

The union says the devices are aging rapidly as they were not being replaced and the number of firefighters at Invercargill had remained stagnant.

Invercargill's newest hotel, The Langlands, is expected to be around 35 meters tall.  The tallest aerial ladder in the Invercargill Fire Station fleet is 17 meters. [file photo]

Robyn Edie

Invercargill’s newest hotel, The Langlands, is expected to be around 35 meters tall. The tallest aerial ladder in the Invercargill Fire Station fleet is 17 meters. [file photo]

FENZ District Manager Julian Tohiariki said he was confident Invercargill’s fleet was safe and suitable, with frontline devices used by older career firefighters “well within guidelines” between 12 and 14 years old.

Invercargill had a Type 4 aerial device with a 17m ladder, with the next nearest 30m ladder located in Dunedin, although it was ‘very rare’ to have to ask for it, he said declared.

Nationally, a project was underway for FENZ to procure four new replacement aircraft, with FENZ also looking to revise its aircraft strategy, he said.

There were 54 stations at Invercargill and Kingswell stations, he said, and although that number had not increased in ten years, it was a “good enough number for Invercargill”.

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