Locals criticise Port Hills fire emergency response

The hills surrounding Early Valley Road on the Port Hills are left with the scars of a fire that raged for four days and nights.

Ken McKenzie says when it sparked he and his neighbours used a gorse sprayer to save a house and is critical of the response of the first fire crews who turned up.

"There were probably about 20 fire men standing there waiting for instructions on what to do," he says.

Mr McKenzie says he ended up asking to use a hose from one of the fire trucks when the gorse sprayer cut out.

Roger Beattie was battling the blaze alongside Mr McKenzie; he estimates it took the fire crews half an hour to mobilise after arriving.

"They were in a gaggle they were in clipboard mode, they weren't fighting fires," he says.

Mr McKenzie believes the fire could have been stopped on Monday night if the crews had acted faster.

"We wouldn't have lost Phil and Katie's house, we wouldn't have lost the Gordon's house. I don't know how the management of these teams is organised, but to me it's totally wrong."

But the Principal Rural Officer says the crews actions were in line with Fire Service best practice.

Douglas Marshall says valley fires travel a lot faster and are more dangerous to fight and assessments had to be carried out before the crews could get to work.

"If suddenly the firefighters roared up a driveway they can very quickly find themselves trapped with no means of escape and that's not good because it means they're putting themselves at risk and they're in danger of being hurt," he says.

"It also means they're not able to go and do the next job. Yes, it may seem like nothing has been done but that's because they're assessing."

But Mr Marshall says a full review will be carried out in to emergency services response so lessons can be learned for the future. 

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