Time for a change?

Firefighters battle the blaze in the building that houses the World Bar, Fat Badgers Pizza and...
Firefighters battle the blaze in the building that houses the World Bar, Fat Badgers Pizza and Quest in Queenstown on Friday. The Queenstown Volunteer Fire Brigade had to be bolstered by Invercargill and Alexandra crews with the necessary equipment....
Queenstown residents may have to decide if it is time for a paid presence alongside their volunteer fire brigade.

New Zealand Professional Firefighters' Union Southern Branch president Denis Fitzmaurice, of Christchurch, was asked if it was time for paid staff to work in Queenstown's brigade and if an aerial ladder was needed again, after the worst fire in years destroyed the downtown building that housed the World Bar, Fat Badgers Pizza and Quest on Friday.

Mr Fitzmaurice said there were no paid staff in Queenstown and it was not the fault of the volunteers.

The union would probably see a place the size of Queenstown as warranting paid staff, but he deferred to the Fire Service managing its resources.

''If that involved some presence, eventually, of paid staff, then the union certainly would like to be a part of those discussions and would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the brigade in Queenstown.

"Notwithstanding that, the volunteers do the best with what they've got and they serve Queenstown well.

''If the Fire Service is looking at this particular incident and just the way Queenstown's grown in the last number of years, perhaps it's time to look again at whether there is a paid presence in the town. Not saying they replace the volunteers, but maybe there's a chance for a combination.''

The resort's brigade called upon resources from around the lower South Island, including an aerial ladder appliance from Invercargill, which Queenstown relinquished a year earlier.

Asked if an aerial ladder should be standard equipment in multi-storey Queenstown, Mr Fitzmaurice said it was again for the Fire Service to determine.

''They would have taken the old ladder out of service for good reason and that it had passed its use-by date.

''As to whether it is replaced, that's a question for the Fire Service to look at in light of what's happened there in the past few days.

''It's not to say a ladder would have made any difference. It all depends on the fire loading and what actually started the blaze.

''There'll possibly be an operational review and those sort of questions will be answered, but the volunteers would have done the best they could.''

The Queenstown and Frankton volunteer fire brigades are planning for their 150th anniversary in 2014.

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