Fire and Emergency New Zealand is failing the Levin community because too much pressure is being lumped on volunteer crews in the absence of fulltime staff.
That's the view of the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union (NZPFU) in urging the Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ) to post a fulltime crew of four at the Levin station.
NZPFU national secretary Wattie Watson was adamant Levin needed a fulltime crew of no less than four, given the increasing demands on volunteers to attend a growing number of emergencies.
Watson said unrealistic expectations were placed on a volunteer brigade that currently numbered 23.
"The unreasonable expectations on the volunteers brigade is failing the volunteers and their community ... any delays in response impact directly on the firefighters ability to control fires, perform rescues and save lives."
Levin volunteers did an incredible job to attend as many as eight callouts a week, but that was placing an unfair burden on them, their employers, and their families, she said.
The Levin station attended 406 calls last year and 60 per cent of those calls required two fully-manned trucks, she said.
"Levin is a very busy station ... it's important that its brigade gets good support and it is important that the volunteer brigade remains," she said.
Watson said a plan to place two fulltime officers at Levin didn't go far enough.
"A two-person crew cannot respond safely, will not be able to safely rescue anyone trapped and will leave the community and the firefighters at unnecessary risk. It is a breach of the minimum staffing requirements of four-person crews," she said.
"The Levin volunteer brigade has served its community admirably and with the support of a career crew will continue to do so."
Each truck needed an officer and a trained driver, and it was best practice to have two crews in an emergency. Fulltime crews could be out the door within 90 seconds, cutting down response times crucial in any emergency, she said.
Response times were critical in an emergency and she feared lives would be lost if crews had to be called in from neighbouring stations in the absence of a full crew in Levin.
The population of the Horowhenua region and its traffic volumes were forecast to continue to grow in the next decade, placing even more demands on emergency services.
Palmerston North staff were called on during peak school holiday periods to cover volunteer absence at Levin in the past, but the pressure point was now all year round, she said.
NZPFU tried to raise their concerns at a series of recent meetings with FENZ, she said.
However, the claims were strongly refuted by FENZ bosses. Region manager Bruce Stubbs said the community could have complete faith in the Levin station and the status quo.
"Levin is and will continue to be well served by Fire and Emergency New Zealand," he said.
"We do not have any safety concerns for the community, and have full confidence two career firefighters working alongside our volunteers will provide the support Levin needs.
"We are satisfied the Levin Volunteer Fire Brigade can manage the number of incidents they are called out to.
"Since 2018 we have brought in two career firefighters to assist during business hours in the school holidays. This is because, due to the nature of volunteering, some brigades often find it hard to have enough people available during daytime working hours.
"Now, we plan to extend this support beyond what has been provided over the school holiday periods, and bring in two career firefighters from Palmerston North to assist with staffing between 7am to 5pm, on weekdays.
"They would work alongside available volunteers during daytime working hours ... volunteers will continue to respond to calls that are outside of daytime working hours.
"All incidents will be responded to by at least four firefighters, and we have no safety concerns for our personnel who are or will be based out of the Levin station."
Meanwhile, NZPFU was urging firefighters from other regions not to apply for the two vacancies in Levin.