Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Titahi Bay fire - 21 February to 1 March

Well now, that was all a bit exciting, wasn't it?

A little bit before 5pm on Sunday, I was alerted to a scrub fire at Shelley/Onehunga Bay, at Whitireia Park. With the wind blowing, it quickly escalated to a very large fire, ripping up and over the hill towards Titahi Bay Golf Club, and then the houses in the area. First the Golf Club was evacuated, and then a few houses, and once we were getting whole streets needing to leave, the EOC was activated, and we set up a welfare centre at Niblick Hall in Titahi Bay for the evacuees - providing tea & coffee, and toilet facilities, as well as information as it came to hand. I met quite a few interesting people that evening. People's pets was quite a topic for discussion, especially as many had been unable to find their cats. I hope they all return safely.

While about 60 homes (roughly 150 people) were evacuated as a safety precaution, we probably only had around 30 people through the centre, and nobody ended up needing us to provide accommodation, as everyone managed to arrange their own with friends and family in the area. Takapuwahia Marae was ready and able to provide accommodation to those in need, and we also had several generous offers from residents offering beds for strangers. I really am touched to see the community spirit of the people of Porirua. Thank you everybody!

Special thanks have to go to Victim Support, and the Red Cross for staffing the centre, and to the Painters and the Niblick Hall Management Committee for allowing the use of their hall in our time of need - and putting up with late night phone calls from me! HUGE thanks also to the Salvation Army who were sent up the hill to look after the catering for the crews who were working. You are all awesome, and a pleasure to work with.

A little bit before midnight, we got the word that some people on Gloaming Hill Rd could return home, but the rest would have to stay away until the next day, and the people waiting at the centre dispersed, so with nothing left to do, we packed up and the staff went home to their beds.

I'm sure I was supposed to as well, but I wanted to keep an eye on what was going on, and get some rather delayed dinner, so I headed up to the Incident Control Point up at the Golf Club, where the Salvation Army was doing an abolutely stirling job of keeping the troops fed - and there were a lot of troops to feed, even at 1.30am when I left to get some sleep.

I was sure I'd only just put my head down to sleep when the alarm went off at 6am. Back up at the Golf Club by 7am, giving a radio interview in the ladies' toilets at 7.15 (it was away from the noise of the helicopters), and then off to spend the rest of the day actually firefighting with the Wellington Rural Fire Force. Probably one of the hardest days of physical labour I've done in my life! There were still plenty of hot spots and even occassional flare-ups when we were relieved around 4pm.

At least I think it was around 4pm, I know I was home by 5, and asleep by 8. The past two days have really blended into one long day for me, I keep saying yesterday when I mean Sunday.

Hotspots continue to smoulder and occassionally flare-up today (being Tuesday - it is Tuesday, right?), so the work is not yet over. I'll be spending this evening cleaning all the hose we used. Murphy's Law says we'll end up having to use it again as soon as it's been cleaned...

There are heaps of really impressive photos of the fire, on site like Stuff, ourporirua.com etc. The view from Paremata was particularly impressive. Less impressively, I know my boss has a few of me looking incredibly filthy, covered in soot. I might post one later for laughs.

Thanks again to everyone who helped or offered help over the past few days. It's truly appreciated.

EDIT 24/2/10: I'll keep changing the dates as the flare-ups continue, which they do.
EDIT 25/2/10: Despite the rain last night, it really wasn't enough, there are still plenty of hotspots around. More work by ground crews will be required before we can call this one out.
EDIT 26/2/10: There were about 20 hotspots recorded during a flyover yesterday, and the rain early this morning still won't have been enough to knock them out - in fact the weather station at Titahi Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant didn't record any rain at all.
EDIT 4/3/10: The fire was declared out at noon on Monday 1 March.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Hi Porirua EMO..Would you be interested in setting up a Porirua EMO website on ourporirua.com? And in addition featuring in our next newsletter due for release in March? I will call you Wednesday morning to discuss further.