In October I went along to watch Canterbury’s rural firefighters testing their skills and strengths in the Rural Firefighter Challenge, set against the stunning Castle Hill basin.
Fifteen, seven-strong, firefighting crews went head-to-head, and then stood shoulder-to-shoulder, to take part in the challenge over the three days.
There were competitive and demanding exercises each day. Navigation, first aid and fire suppression skills were tested in the morning. In the afternoon, a twist meant crews needed to work together to solve a series of high-energy tasks.
The event is aimed at preventing large-scale fires and ensuring multi-agency coordination in a large-scale emergency.
DOC is the country’s biggest rural fire authority and has been a major player in the organising and running of these events, with some very real heroes from within the Department going that extra mile to make the challenge what it is today.
Over the years the challenge has evolved into an immense, quirky, multi-task exercise. These exercises have included setting up equipment while dodging paintballs, herding sheep and, this year, getting treasure down from an “electrified” wire.
In his third week on the job as National Rural Fire Officer, Kevin O’Connor, congratulated the crews and event organisers on the mammoth effort put into both organising and undertaking this year’s challenge.
Overall it’s an impressive event with over 100 employed and volunteer firefighters supported by a ground crew of around 40, providing essential services such as medical response, catering, vehicle pool management, supplies and resources, radio communications, finance, IT, and logistics.
The challenge provides invaluable experience for firefighting crews when it comes to a real life emergency.