Following the deaths of two Fire and Emergency volunteer firefighters, Craig Stevens and Dave van Zwanenberg, in February 2023, Fire and Emergency commissioned an independent investigation to identify all the factors that contributed to this tragic event. 

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is a close whānau and this continues to be an awful reminder of the risks our firefighters can be exposed to on any given day. 

This investigation was not conducted to attribute fault, blame or liability for what happened. It was undertaken to ensure Fire and Emergency can learn from this catastrophic event and to reduce the risk of something like this happening in the future. 

The investigation has now been completed and a copy of the report has been released publicly. link)  

The report makes four recommendations. In summary these focus on raising awareness and knowledge of hazards like landslides and reviewing aspects of our critical risk management programme. 

Work is already underway to address them. Some of this work was underway prior to this event and has now been completed. 

  • We have completed a review of our risk management standard, which we had started in October last year, aligning it to the ISO standard mentioned.  
  • A national safety notice has been issued providing advice about safety around landslides and land subsidence to operational personnel.  
  • Learning modules are being developed for slip awareness and considerations to be taken when responding to land slips.  
  • We are increasing our national Urban Search and Rescue response capability by providing more training and equipment to districts and Brigades in areas with greater potential for earthquakes and landslides.
  • We have initiated a review of our approach to critical risk management. 

As adverse events like Cyclone Gabrielle become more common and unpredictable, we need to be agile, adapting our knowledge and training as the types of emergencies we respond to change.    

We would like to pass on our thanks to the two investigators who undertook this investigation for Fire and Emergency.  This was a tragic event, and both took great care when speaking with those directly involved, while ensuring a thorough investigation was completed. 

Our thoughts continue to be with Dave and Craig’s whānau and friends, our Muriwai Brigade, the Muriwai community and those who were involved in the search and rescue operation, as you continue to grieve your loss. 

Please do not hesitate to reach out for supportWellbeing advisors in our regions can support you and there is information available on the Portal.  Welfare and wellbeing | The Portal.(external link)

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