Wairarapa fire crews praised for help

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Wairarapa fire crews are an asset to Life Flight Westpac rescue helicopter crews. PHOTO/FILE
Wairarapa fire crews are an asset to Life Flight Westpac rescue helicopter crews. PHOTO/FILE

A little bit of "local knowledge" goes a long way for the Life Flight helicopter crew who depend on Wairarapa firefighters to guide some tricky landings in the region.

Life Flight Westpac rescue helicopter crewman Julian Burn said the help from the fire service was invaluable, especially for night-time missions in which powerlines and wires are "next to impossible to see".

Mr Burn was part of a Life Flight crew that flew to Lake Ferry this week for a late-night medical mission.

"It only took us seven and a half minutes to get there from Wellington," he said.

"And on that night about seven or eight firefighters turned up to the site and not only did they cordon off the road for the security of the helicopter, they also had flood lights which helped to light the patient.

"They know the area really well and they give us good reports on weather and wires and obstacles like that. It just makes our job a lot easier and a lot safer."

All fire response people in Wairarapa are trained in setting up landing sites for medical evacuations and any other helicopter landings.

They regularly provide emergency flight mission crews with vital information for landing such as wind direction and possible obstacles.

"The most important thing for us, especially at night-time, are wires," Mr Burn said.

"They're hard enough to see during the daytime, they're next to impossible to see in the night time. If we fly into them, it's pretty much game over.

"So that's probably the single most important thing for us as far as landing sites in rural areas go.

"So a little bit of local knowledge goes a long way."

Principal rural fire officer Phill Wishnowsky said it was a pleasure to support Life Flight, because of the "amazing job" they do "often in very very difficult circumstances".

"They fly in conditions where we think we probably shouldn't even be out driving on the roads, and yet they turn up out of the darkness and they just do an absolutely amazing job.

"It's really easy for us to do everything we can to make sure their role is as straightforward and as safe as possible.

"We take our hat off to those people and anything we can do to help their situation is just so worthwhile."

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