Yardley slams fire response

Mike Yardley writes:

Just as we saluted and decorated the vast army of community heroes who shone throughout our earthquake sequence, it goes without saying that the firefighters, helicopter crews and fellow first-responders who have slogged their guts out since Monday last week must be royally recognised for their gallantry, tenacity and extraordinary duty, when this nightmare is finally over.

Amazing job from those on the ground.

Hundreds of residents vented their increasing dismay and disbelief at the apparent failure of the Selwyn and mayors to get to grips with the enormity of the ever-billowing threat.

Individuals were pleading with Mayor Dalziel and senior city councillors, via their Facebook pages, to urgently declare a state of emergency. It took a further two hours after Westmorland was suddenly evacuated at 4pm, before the declaration was issued.

I guess the Government could have in theory declared a state of emergency if the local authorities had continued to delay doing so – but that is something that has never happened in recent history.

Some hillside residents had packed and were ready to self-evacuate at 1pm. They could see the situation gravely deteriorating, first-hand. The fact that officials struggled to grasp the gravity of the gathering crisis, even after Minister Brownlee phoned the two mayors to establish their positions, is lamentable.

Not only would a declaration issued much earlier in the afternoon have mobilised the likes of Defence Force resources and the power to enforce road cordons far sooner, but, most importantly, it would have sent a clarion message to the community about the scale of the crisis.

Instead, many residents in the firing line of the blaze were left in a state of relative complacency, only to be propelled into a blind panic by police officers barking orders that they only had five minutes to evacuate their houses.

An extra two hours notice would have made a huge difference.

Then, of course, there is the alarming claim from the Firefighters Union that 10 properties were needlessly destroyed because urban fire brigades were stood down prematurely on Monday, only to be called back later.

Very alarming, if true.

Definitely should be an inquiry into the response to the fires.

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