On 25 August, Fire and Emergency responded to a vegetation fire started by the hot exhaust of a car that drove through long grass in a paddock adjoining Taiharuru Road, Whangarei. Initially a response of two pumps and a water tanker from three stations, Whangarei Heads, Onerahi and Hikurangi were dispatched.

After an assessment of water supply at the location and the potential contact that the personnel of these separate bubbles would make if they were to fight the fire on the ground, Michael Champtaloup, Deputy Principal Rural Fire Officer (DPRFO) Northland, made the decision to deploy a helicopter with a monsoon bucket to help fight the fire. Assistant Area Commander Whangarei Kaipara Graeme Quensell, who lives nearby, made contact with DPRFO Champtaloup and offered to respond to the incident to minimise unnecessary response travel by DPRFO Champtaloup.

Seawater, the nearest water source was difficult for ground crews to access because the tide was out. Meanwhile, strong winds were quickly spreading the fire. The helicopter was able to knock the fire down and minimise its spread, which allowed for less mop-up and the early release of the pump and water tanker from the supporting brigades. It also meant fewer people needed to respond, further minimising the risk of COVID exposure.

While protecting a nearby house, the ground crews soon extinguished the fire put out by the helicopter without putting themselves at risk of injury or public contact.

By adhering to the Service Delivery Preventative Protection Protocols (SDPPP) we can do our job while minimising the risk to our people and the community from COVID.

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