'Idiotic behaviour' angers firefighter

<b>2pm:</b> Revellers at the annual Hyde St keg party on Saturday.
<b>2pm:</b> Revellers at the annual Hyde St keg party on Saturday.
<b>6pm:</b> A firefighter extinguishes a couch after it was set on fire.
<b>6pm:</b> A firefighter extinguishes a couch after it was set on fire.
<b>8pm:</b> Dunedin police secure Hyde St and keep revellers out.
<b>8pm:</b> Dunedin police secure Hyde St and keep revellers out.
<b>10am:</b> Hyde St residents and helpers help clean up the mess yesterday.
<b>10am:</b> Hyde St residents and helpers help clean up the mess yesterday.

"Half of our future leaders appear to be idiots. The other half appear to be sheep." Those were the words of Willowbank station officer Grant Clarkson yesterday.

He said the patience of his fellow firefighters at Willowbank and Dunedin City stations was beginning to wear thin after they were called to 12 fires in the student quarter between 6pm on Saturday and 6am yesterday.

Mr Clarkson said the fires involved couches, mattresses and rubbish at the annual Hyde St keg party as well as Clyde St, Harbour Tce, Dundas St, Castle St North, Duke St and Union St East.

"It's idiotic behaviour, and there are obviously a lot of sheep that sit there watching - and they don't do anything to stop it."

While tolerance was decaying, Mr Clarkson said concern was growing among the city's firefighters because fires being lit in the student quarter appeared to be becoming more dangerous in nature.

"Earlier on Saturday night, the fires were mostly couches related to parties. But later on, at 4 or 5 on Sunday morning, they seemed to be more malicious.

"It looked like people were coming home from a night out, setting fire to something lying on the street, and then going to bed.

"If the wind gets up and blows the embers under a roof, they could set fire to flats. And if they don't have working smoke alarms ..."

Acting Sergeant Chris MacAulay and two of his colleagues found themselves helping out the fire service when they noticed a banner hung in front of one of the Hyde St flats during the annual street party on fire about 8.30pm on Saturday.

"The flames climbed up the banner and reached an open top floor window and set the curtains on fire," he said.

Realising the fire service had no chance of getting through the crowd, the trio ran into the house and beat the fire out.

However, their actions were not appreciated by one of the residents of the flat, who confronted them, demanding to know why they were there.

"He was really drunk. I doubt he'll remember it and I doubt the occupants of the flat will have any idea what happened to their curtains," Acting Sgt MacAulay said.

The "stupidity" of the person who set the banner on fire appalled Acting Sgt MacAulay.

"In my opinion, it shows a very low level of intelligence and the perpetrator had a reckless disregard for the safety of others.

"The city's police were also kept busy on Saturday night after the Highlanders v Crusaders Super 15 rugby match at Carisbrook and the Hyde St party near the University of Otago.

Senior Sergeant Craig Brown, of Dunedin, said 55 people were arrested in the city between 3.30pm on Saturday and 6am yesterday.

About 18 of the total arrests were known to be of students, seven of which were from the Hyde St party.

Most of the arrests were for fighting, disorderly behaviour and breaches of the liquor ban, he said.

Snr Sgt Brown said behaviour at the Hyde St party was on a par with previous years, despite the fine weather attracting significantly more people.

It was estimated more than 2000 people attended.

A St John Ambulance spokesman said 25 people from the party were treated by ambulance staff, mostly for cuts and bruises from broken glass and falls.

One intoxicated party-goer, dressed as Batman, was hit by a car on Frederick St about 3pm and taken to Dunedin Hospital as a precaution.

Snr Sgt Brown said the party began about 8.30am on Saturday and was closed down without incident at 7.30pm.

"It was naturally beginning to peter out, so the party was closed down to make it a safe and happy ending to the day."

Dunedin area tactical response manager Inspector Alastair Dickie said the students were more respectful than those at previous parties, but his tolerance for was also wearing thin.

"I cannot see the point of young people getting boozed up and falling down drunk in some cases.

"It is part of a culture we don't need in this city and this open public binge-drinking event should be past its use-by date by now."

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz


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