Fighting fires with dedicated DOC staff

Department of Conservation —  09/09/2017

Did you know that DOC staff fight fires?

This means that many staff are trained to fight fires, and do so on public conservation land when necessary.

Nenthorn Burn 2009.jpg

DOC fire fighters assisting with tussock burn in Nenthorn, Central Otago. Photo: John Pearce

Why fight fires?

Wildfires pose a serious risk to public conservation land. So, to protect the land and species that live there we need to be able to respond when fire threatens. If a fire does break out, putting it out takes priority over all other work. During particularly dry times, staff carry their fire kits where ever they are working so they can respond to a fire call.

Where do DOC staff fight fires?

The most recent fire response in New Zealand was the Port Hills fires in Christchurch. More than 100 DOC staff were called to work on the devastating Christchurch fire, with up to five fire crews on the ground daily, as well as people managing crews, overseeing thermal imaging by drone and helicopter, doing geospatial mapping and working in the incident management team.


Kiwi firefighters inside the Hercules on the way to the Canadian wildfire. Photo: Fire and Emergency NZ

As well as fighting fires here, our trained firefighters also head overseas to help other fire response teams. DOC has fire deployment agreements with Canada, USA and Australia, and recently eight staff were sent to Canada to help with the major fires they are fighting in Elephant Hill. International deployments are about helping similar agencies during times of need, while also sharing fire management techniques, skills and personnel.


Kevin Donaldson working the line in the Canadian wildfire

The end of an era

New Zealand gained a new fire service in July: Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ). This brought a close to DOC’s 30-year history as New Zealand’s largest Rural Fire Authority, and introduced a new era as a support agency.

DOC will continue to fight fires, now as a support agency rather than an authority. We’ll supporting FENZ with fires on public conservation land and wherever else we’re needed.