Firefighters Union gives dire warning if shortage of aerial trucks isn't addressed

The Professional Firefighters Union is warning that a member of the public will die if Fire and Emergency doesn't do something about the shortage of trucks with long-reach cherry pickers onboard.

A massive blaze in Auckland on Wednesday used all the aerial trucks available in the region, meaning none were available if another fire broke out somewhere else in the city. 

It took fire crews almost 24 hours to fully extinguish that raging inferno and special trucks with cherry pickers are needed to fight fires of that size.

Auckland would usually have five aerial trucks available. Due to mechanical breakdowns, only three were in operation on Wednesday and all of them were sent to the blaze in Papakura.

Professional Firefighters Union Auckland secretary Martin Campbell questions when things are going to change.

"All it takes is for one fire to happen in Auckland, and we have no backups, no redundancy in place to be able to attend another incident happening at the same time," he says.

One of the trucks then broke down on-site and was out of action for much of Thursday as well.  

Until that truck was fixed later in the afternoon, just two aerial trucks were working across Auckland. The closest alternative was a truck from Hamilton, which is an hour-and-a-half drive away.

"Most definitely people's lives are at risk. Not only the lives of the members of the public but the lives of our firefighters," Campbell says.

Fire and Emergency says it does have options if multiple fires break out and Wednesday's blaze was no exception.

"We had a contingency plan to be able to release one of the aerial appliances at very short notice and keep the way clear so it could get out quickly," FENZ area commander Geoff Purcell says.

A review of the fleet has been underway for some time.

"That looks at what will be the lifespan, how many do we need and where to we need them," he adds.

Four of the five trucks will be working again from Thursday night, but that's still not enough to put out the union's concerns.