Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Local firefighters not needed for Christchurch just yet (+ video)

Local firefighters could head to Christchurch next week as the fire in the Port Hills area continues to burn out of control.

The Rotorua-based firefighters were among 26 in the wider Pumicelands area who had been waiting to hear whether they will be needed to help those on the ground but have now been told to stand down until Sunday.

Pumicelands principal rural fire officer Paul Wright said while they were waiting for news, they had today been loading up about 14 tonnes of chemicals which were going down to Christchurch to help in the firefighting effort.

Mr Wright said the chemicals included 6000 litres of a foam that was added to water to make it more effective in fighting the fire, as well as about 4.5 tonnes of Phos-Chek - a fire retardant which is put ahead of the fire to act as a chemical firebreak.

Because of pressure on commercial trucking firms, a fire truck from Tauranga was taking the chemicals down, crossing over Cook Strait in the early hours of tomorrow morning and expected in Christchurch tomorrow afternoon, Mr Wright said.

"We had to use a fire service truck out of Tauranga which is loading up here and taking it down all the way to Canterbury. Two drivers will share the driving."

Loading a truck with fire fighting chemicals at the Rotorua Fire Station. Tauranga fire fighter Kevin Davies. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
Loading a truck with fire fighting chemicals at the Rotorua Fire Station. Tauranga fire fighter Kevin Davies. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Mr Wright said it was an anxious wait for those who had offered to go down.

"This is what they train for. Most of these guys are pretty excited about getting deployments."

However, he said they were hoping to get a quick decision on how many people and who were going.

"They're not sure whether they need to get replacements for their day jobs ... for them and their employers and their families it is unsettling waiting for a decision."

Mr Wright said they had anticipated being needed.

"We anticipated the call for support [on Wednesday] even before we were asked."

He said given 15 people from Pumicelands were already in Hawke's Bay, it was great to see the response from those willing to do it.

"It is good. I think it shows the willingness of volunteers to not only look after their own community but others."

Mr Wright said the aim was to send fire crews from across the Pumicelands area so they didn't deplete any one location.

He said he felt for the crews in Christchurch dealing with difficult topography and unexpected wind shifts.

Pumicelands is the organisation responsible for rural fire in the Central North Island.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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