The role of the firefighter has changed dramatically in recent years. No longer is the job primarily responding to structure and vegetation fires or road crashes. Firefighters co-respond with ambulance for emergency medical response to the most life-threatening cases, manage hazardous chemical and biological incidents, perform urban search and rescue as well as rescue people trapped in confined spaces or trenches or requiring high angle rescue. They respond to all types of extreme weather events and natural disasters. Career firefighters are highly trained with robust qualification and experience requirements and specialist skills.
The level of career firefighters across New Zealand has barely changed since the 1990s.
Career fire stations have been closing, fire trucks are left idle when there are insufficient career firefighters to staff the trucks. To keep a truck responding, career firefighters will sometimes deploy in unsafe levels of crewing. That is dangerous for them and can prevent performing rescue or containing a fire until back-up arrives.
FENZ needs to have at least 4 recruit courses a year to replace those retiring or resigning. This year FENZ cancelled the April recruit course knowing that firefighters were working long hours to keep up emergency response.
FENZ does not employ sufficient career firefighters to maintain minimum crew levels. FENZ is relying on firefighters to work huge overtime hours to keep fire trucks responding to the community. Career firefighters are employed to work 42 hours a week. Firefighters report regularly working more than 60 hours a week with some working 100 hours a week just to keep fire trucks responding to the community.
FENZ has refused to fix the ratio of firefighters needed to maintain minimum staffing levels (at the 1990 levels) in the career firefighters’ collective agreement.
FENZ has not planned for the necessary increases in career firefighter numbers which are needed to protect the community in 2022 with the additional millions in population and the wide range of emergency response firefighters now provide.
In 2021 career firefighters constituted 13.5% of FENZ’s total career and volunteer force*
Career Firefighters attend:
- 62% of all incidents
- 41% of all medicals
- 71% of structure fires (with damage)
- 41% of Natural Disasters
- 39% of Vegetation incidents
- 52% of motor vehicle accidents
- 64% of fatal fires (though only 36% were in their response area)
- 60% of incidents that required a rescue
- 61% of public assist incidents
- 49% of animal rescues
- 75% of marine responses
- 87% of line rescues
- 66% of home safety visits
- 55% of community events
- 93% of site visits
- 86% of site plans
- 66% of all smoke alarm installations
- 77% Hazardous substance incidents
*Data taken from FENZ 2021 annual report and Official Information Request responses.