Resort firefighters flat out

Fire boss: Queenstown fire chief Andrew Bary

Queenstown firefighters are the busiest in Otago and Southland, with fires and false alarms skyrocketing in recent years.

A new fire station’s planned for Frankton to help cater for growth, as Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) stats show a whopping 48 per cent jump in the number of call-outs in the resort as a whole since 2013.

Last year, the Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade topped the list of busiest volunteer stations in Otago/Southland, attending 403 calls.

The Arrowtown and Frankton stations were among the top eight, with 176 and 169 calls respectively.

But Queenstown fire chief Andrew Bary reckons 2018 was a “bit of a blip”.

“It was an extraordinary year because we had a lot of vegetation fires that summer, we were actually looking at that quite closely.

“Over that January/February period we think there were about 80 calls attributed to those fires, or backing up brigades because we just threw everything at it, because conditions were so bad.”

He says the brigades are still busy – “but it’s not much busier than it’s always been”.

Work has been ongoing around responses to false alarms, which make up a massive chunk of the brigade’s workload.

Queenstown alone attended 214 false alarms last year, up from 178 in 2013.

Bary says there’ve been FENZ staff dedicated to educating tradies working on sites, and engaging with “frequent flyers” to reduce avoidable false alarms.

“We’ve also been working quite smartly around how we respond to them, so we don’t tip out three appliances to an alarm going off when no one else is calling us saying ‘there’s a fire in room 25’, or whatever.”

A FENZ spokeswoman confirms it’s also looking to build a new station in Frankton, and is currently trying to find land.

“We have an existing station in Frankton (a one-bay station) but it is too small for the growing community.

“We hope to secure [land] and build in the next 10 years.”