Fire and Emergency New Zealand

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Fire and Emergency New Zealand
Fire and Emergency New Zealand logo.png
Whakaratonga Iwi – Service to the people
Operational area
CountryNew Zealand
Agency overview[3]
Established1 July 2017 (2017-07-01)
Annual calls75,142 (2016–17)[1]
Employees2,815 (2018)
Staffing1,721 career firefighters
11,600 volunteer firefighters[2]
Fire chiefRhys Jones (Chief Executive)
Paul McGill (National Commander Urban)
Kevin O'Connor (National Manager Rural)
Facilities and equipment
Official website

Fire and Emergency New Zealand is New Zealand's main firefighting and emergency services body.

Fire and Emergency was formally established on 1 July 2017, after the New Zealand Fire Service, the National Rural Fire Authority, and 38 rural fire districts and territorial authorities amalgamated to form one new organisation,[4][5] it has nationwide responsibility for fire safety, firefighting, hazardous substance incident response, vehicle extrication and urban search and rescue.


New Zealand's first volunteer fire brigade was established in Auckland in 1854, with volunteer fire brigades established in Christchurch in 1860, Dunedin in 1861, and in Wellington in 1865; the Municipal Corporation Act 1867 allowed borough councils to establish fire brigades and appoint fire inspectors, starting the first paid fire brigades. The Fire Brigades Act 1906 set up local fire boards, and levied central government, local authorities and insurance companies to cover costs.[6]

During the summer of 1945/46, a large scrub and forest fire threatened the town of Taupo and blocked the Rotorua–Taupo Road. In response, the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1947 established the modern rural firefighting force.[7]

On 18 November 1947, Christchurch's Ballantynes department store was gutted by fire, killing 41 employees; the resulting Royal Commission of Inquiry found that the store' evacuation scheme was inadequate, the fire brigade was slow to be informed of the fire, and the firefighters were not properly trained or equipped.[8] The Commission proposed a national fire service, however this was rejected; the Fire Services Act 1949 instead set up the Fire Service Council to coordinate urban fire brigades, direct firefighter training and distribute equipment. In 1958, the first national training school for firefighters was established. On 29 September 1958, the first 111 emergency telephone service was introduced covering Masterton and Carterton, and was gradually expanded nationwide through the 1960s and 1970s.[7]

The Fire Service Act 1975 replaced the Fire Service Council with a new Fire Service Commission, and merged local fire boards and urban volunteer fire brigades into a single entity, the New Zealand Fire Service.

The Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977 established the National Rural Fire Authority under the New Zealand Fire Service Commission to coordinate the various rural fire authorities.[7]

Fire and Emergency was formally established on 1 July 2017, merging the New Zealand Fire Service, the National Rural Fire Authority, and 38 rural fire districts and territorial authorities.[4][5]


The main legislation governing Fire and Emergency is the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017,[4] which replaced the Fire Service Act 1975 and the Forest and Rural Fires Act 1977. In addition to the merger of the New Zealand Fire Service and rural fire authorities, the Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act added explicit authority for expanded functions, including call-outs to road accidents, natural disasters, and medical emergencies.[4]

Fire and Emergency is a Crown entity, and as so is responsible to the Government via its Board; the Minister for Internal Affairs is the minister responsible for Fire and Emergency.

Roles and functions[edit]

Papatoetoe Fire Station appliances line up for a morning photoshoot.

The main functions of Fire and Emergency are those where it has responsibility to respond, and has lead responsibility in a multi-agency emergency; these include:[9]

  • firefighting
  • fire safety and prevention
  • Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) – The containment of a hazardous substance and decontamination of an environment or persons affected by a hazardous substance.
  • vehicle extrication – Extrication of entrapped persons in the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident
  • urban search and rescue (USAR) – Fire and Emergency NZ is the lead agency for New Zealand USAR operations (Civil Defence & Emergency Management Act 2002) They also manage three USAR Task Force level teams, providing communications and resources. Being the lead agency, Fire and Emergency NZ also coordinates the 17 NZ Response Teams which also provide light USAR support. Paid career FENZ firefighters have a baseline level of training in USAR techniques and make up the vast majority of the actual USAR team members.

Fire and Emergency also has a number of additional functions which it may assist in, but not at the compromise of its main functions; these are typically functions where another agency has lead responsibility in a multi-agency emergency. These additional function include:[10]

  • medical first response – Responding to medical emergencies in smaller communities where there is no local ambulance service, as well as in the main centres when an ambulance is unavailable or will be significantly delayed in attending an incident.
  • medical co-response – Co-responding with ambulance services to "Code Purple" emergencies (e.g. cardiac and respiratory arrest)
  • rescue (high angle line, confined spaces, swift water, etc.) – Rescue from the side of buildings; dangerous terrain (cliff/rock faces, etc.)
  • natural disaster response – Addressing the problems caused by heavy rain and high winds (lifted roofing, power lines and trees down onto properties or across roadways, flooding)

Fire and Emergency's jurisdiction covers the majority of New Zealand's land mass; the Department of Conservation and the New Zealand Defence Force are responsible for fire services covering the land under their control. Industry fire brigades provide fire services to certain facilities such as major airports and industrial plants. Fire and Emergency provides mutual assistance to these brigades.


Ranks and insignia[edit]

The epaulette markings used by Fire and Emergency are identical to those used by the New Zealand Police and the New Zealand Army, except for the use of impellers instead of pips; the current colour scheme for helmets was rolled out in late 2013, with the intention to make it easier to identify the command structure at a large-scale, multi-agency incident.[11]

Title Epaulette[12] Helmet[12] Approximate equivalent
National Commander Silver crossed sword and baton below a crown Black Commissioner Chief of Department
Assistant National Commander Three impellers in a triangle below a crown Silver with two blue stripes Assistant Commissioner Assistant Chief
Area Commander
Principal Rural Fire Officer
One impeller below a crown Silver with one blue strpe Group Manager Division Chief
Assistant Area Commander Three impellers Silver (no stripes) Station Manager Battalion Chief
Chief Fire Officer
Rural Fire Officer
Impeller inside a wreath below two impellers White with two blue stripes Station Manager Battalion Chief
Deputy Chief Fire Officer
Deputy Rural Fire Officer
Impeller inside a wreath below one impeller White with one blue stripe N/A N/A
Senior Station Officer Two impellers Red with two blue stripes Watch Manager B /
Station Officer
Station Officer One impeller Red with one blue stripe Watch Manager A /
Senior Firefighter Two bars Yellow with two red stripes Crew Manager /
Leading Firefighter
Qualified Firefighter One bar Yellow with one red stripe Firefighter Firefighter
Firefighter Plain Yellow (no stripes) Firefighter Firefighter

Appliances and vehicles[edit]

The basic urban appliance in New Zealand are the Pump Tender and the Pump Rescue Tender; the Pump Tender is primarily equipped for fires, while the Pump Rescue Tender is additionally equipped with rescue equipment for motor vehicle accidents and vehicle extrication.

Class Chassis make and model Body manufacturer Number[13] Image
Type 1 "Light" Pump Iveco Eurocargo Fraser Fire & Rescue, Lower Hutt 319 Newlands291.JPG
Type 2 "Medium" Pump Iveco Eurocargo Fraser Fire & Rescue, Lower Hutt 270 Greytown647.JPG
Type 3 "Heavy" Pump MAN TGM
Scania P-series
Fraser Fire & Rescue, Lower Hutt 231 Remuera211.jpg
Type 4 "Heavy Aerial" Pump Scania P-series Fraser Fire & Rescue, Lower Hutt 18 Papatoetoe344 MVA.jpg
Type 5 Hydraulic Elevating Platform 5 WellingtonBronto.JPG
Type 6 Turntable Ladder 5 AucklandReliefTTL.jpg
Ultralight Pump 25
Rural Medium Appliance 108
Rural Large Appliance 47
Water Tanker (4x2) 77
Water Tanker (6x4) 55
Water Tanker (4x4) 20
Hazmat / Command Unit DAF LF 18 Wellington2118.JPG
Command Unit 7
Light Response Vehicle 7
Incident Support Vehicle 7
Hose Layer 5
Foam Tender 3
BA Tender 2
Hazmat Unit 2
Heavy Rescue Unit 1 Papatoetoe348.jpg

Notable incidents[edit]

Major notable incidents where Fire and Emergency or its predecessors have played a significant role include:

  • Pidgeon Valley fire, 2019 - on the afternoon of 5 February 2019, a fire broke out in a paddock in Pidgeon Valley near Wakefield. The fire doubled in size overnight. At its height it covered 2400 hectares, and was the largest wildfire seen in New Zealand in sixty years, it prompted the declaration of a state of emergency. By February 6th it had been brought under control, with the fire extinguished on the surface for some time, but by 14 February 133 homes were still off limits with residents unable to return.[14] Fire crews continued working on underground hot spots into March. One helicopter crashed during the course of the fire injuring its pilot.[14][15]
  • Port Hills fire, 2017 – on the evening of 13 February 2017, two separate fires, several kilometres apart, started on the Port Hills near Christchurch. The two fires merged on 15 February and by the time the fire was brought under control on 19 February, it had burned over 2000 hectares of land and destroyed 11 houses. One helicopter crashed while helping to fight the fires, causing the death of the pilot.
  • Southdown Freezing Works fire, 2008 – on 20 December 2008, Auckland firefighters were called out to a reported building fire in the suburb of Southdown. Upon crews arriving, a call was made to transmit a sixth-alarm response. Almost every crew from all over Auckland responded with at least two appliances coming from Rotorua and Hamilton. There was suspected asbestos inside some of the buildings that were alight, causing it to feed the fire. [16][17]
  • Tamahere coolstore fire, 2008 – on 5 April 2008, Hamilton firefighters were called out to a fire alarm activation at the Icepak Coolstores southeast of the city at Tamahere. While investigating the cause of the alarm the propane-based refrigerant ignited explosively, injuring all eight firefighters and destroying one fire engine. One firefighter, Senior Station Officer Derek Lovell, later died in hospital as a result of his injuries; the fire was upgraded to a fifth-alarm response, with appliances coming from as far afield as Onehunga and Taupo. A water tender from nearby Hamilton Airport and Fonterra milk tankers were also called in to assist with water supply. Icepak Coolstores and the refrigeration company contracted to maintain the coolstores pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches, and combined were ordered to pay $393,000 in fines and reparation. [18]
  • ICI Riverview fire, 1984 – on 21 December 1984, a fire broke out at the ICI Riverview chemical warehouse in Mount Wellington, Auckland, killing one person. Thirty-one firefighters suffered ill effects from the toxic fumes given out in the fire.
  • Sprott House fire, 1969 – on 26 July 1969, a fire broke out at the Sprott House rest home in Karori, Wellington, killing seven of the 21 residents. As a result, the Fire Safety (Evacuation of Buildings) Regulations 1970 were made, making sprinklers, automatic alarms and evacuation schemes compulsory for institutions housing more than 20 people.[7]
  • Ballantyne's fire, 1947 – on 18 November 1947, a fire broke out at the Ballantyne's department store in central Christchurch, killing 41 people. It remains the deadliest fire in New Zealand.
  • Seacliff Lunatic Asylum fire, 1942 – on the evening of 8 December 1942, a fire broke out in Ward 5 at the Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, north of Dunedin, killing 28 of the 39 female patients housed within. A shortage of nursing staff due to World War II, as well as the lack of sprinklers in the ward, contributed to the deaths.


  1. ^ "Annual report for the year ending 30 June 2016". New Zealand Fire Service. Retrieved 7 January 2018.
  2. ^ "Annual report for the year ending 30 June 2016". New Zealand Fire Service. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  3. ^ "Fact Sheet: Our People" (PDF). Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d "Radical overhaul for Fire Service under new bill". New Zealand Law Society. 5 May 2017. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  5. ^ a b Weber, Adriana (30 June 2017). "'Big day' as NZ's fire services merge". Stuff. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  6. ^ Swarbrick, Nancy. "Fires and fire services – Early fire services". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  7. ^ a b c d Swarbrick, Nancy. "Towards a national fire service – Early fire services". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  8. ^ Swarbrick, Nancy. "Fires in the 1940s – Early fire services". Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  9. ^ Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017, section 11
  10. ^ Fire and Emergency New Zealand Act 2017, section 12
  11. ^ "Heads Up" (PDF). Fire + Rescue. New Zealand Fire Service (94): 7. August 2013. ISSN 1176-6670. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b "Rank insignia". New Zealand Fire Service. Archived from the original on 2 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Detailed list of fire appliances in operation - a Official Information Act request to Fire and Emergency New Zealand". 2 August 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Pigeon Valley residents returning home as fire recedes".
  15. ^ "Pigeon Valley Fire Update 74".
  16. ^ "Major fire at Auckland freezing works". 14 May 2010. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  17. ^ "Southdown Freezing Works 6th Alarm- 2008". 20 December 2008. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  18. ^ "Companies, director sentenced over fatal coolstore fire". 15 December 2009. Retrieved 13 October 2017.

External links[edit]