Airport fireys gear up for night shift


Queenstown Airport’s fire crew is beefing up to cope with night flights and growth.

Four firefighters have been handpicked from 70 applicants from around the world to join the full-time response crew.

And three of six existing crew have been promoted.

Auckland Airport’s also sold partner Queenstown its Stryker 6 fire engine, at a knock-down price of $110,000.

Chief fire officer Bill Wrigley says: “The airport’s growing just like everything else around Queenstown.

“And we’ve night flights soon.

“So it’s a case of expanding and also upskilling for the night flights - night procedures, night exercises, preparing for a different environment.

“It’s the same job, you just can’t see very far.”

The team is expected to expand further once night flights start in July.

Wrigley says there’ll be a minimum five crew on rotating shifts.

They’re “on station” ready to respond 20 minutes either side of a flight.

They have to respond to any emergency, anywhere on the airfield, within three minutes.

The crew carries out runway inspections and snow clearing, often from 2am during winter, clears debris, and carries out bird patrols.

They’re also ‘pre-hospital’, which means they have advanced first aid training and respond to medical incidents.

Recruits Richard Stokes, Gavin Mason and Jordan Lineham are external appointments, while Roydon Cullimore is stepping up to full-time.

They’re in Auckland for two months’ training.

Doug McKay and Bobby Lamont, a trained ambulance officer, have been promoted in rank to rescue fire officers.

And Mike Ide has been promoted to deputy crew chief. The 70 applicants were narrowed to 40 for the physical tests in November, and then 20 went through to a practical test.

Wrigley says: “We went through a recruitment process with two senior officers who came down from Auckland Airport to assist us.

“You’re looking for certain skills, not necessarily the experience but willing to learn, and they’ve got to be team players, fit within a group.”

Auckland Airport replaced the Stryker 6 last year. It’s been refurbished and sold to Queenstown.

It holds 9000 litres of water. Queenstown’s two Rosenbauer Scania engines hold 7000 litres of water each.

The extra manpower and engine means the airport fire response moves from category 6 to 7 under CAA rules - determined by the amount of equipment and foam carried.