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GUY FAWKES NIGHT, Evening Post, Volume CXXIV, Issue 121, 18 November 1937
GUY FAWKES NIGHT
CALLS TO FIRES
NO FUN FOR BRIGADES
SERIOUS yiEW TAKEN
A comprehensive report on the | large number of Guy Fawkes Night ! fires, with suggestions to meet the situation, was submitted to the Wellington Fire Board today by Mr. C. A. Woolley, superintendent of the Central Fire Brigade. Between 7 p.m. and midnight -45 calls were received, and Mr. Wool- ,, ley pointed out that even with the special organisation and precautions adopted the brigade would have been in serious difficulties had a serious fire occurred in the city. Mr. Woolley suggested that measures be taken to control the position and in the course of the discussion which the report provoked he said that it was proposed to hold a conference in regard to the matter. The board,. approved of the conference. "I feel it necessary to call the board's attention to the dangerous position which arises every year on Guy Fawkes Night, owing to the large number of fires caused by the discharge of fireworks and' extension from bonfires," stated the superintenednt in his | report. "Most of these fires involve t gorse, grass, and rubbish only, but it is not unusual for property fires to occur as well. On the evening of Guy Fawkes Night, 1936, we had 33 calls and I had 11 appliances and 59 men on duty at 7 p.m., but owing to the number of calls, at one stage, only one machine and four men were available at headquarters station to answer city calls. Had a serious fire at this period occurred the result might have been disastrous.
"To ensure that a similar situation would not arise this year I arranged for six fire police cars and two trucks to be available for duty in addition to the permanent plant, and including 12 members of the Fire Police Corps, in all, a total staff of 75 officers and men on: duty at 7 p.m. Despite this special organisation, I was on several occasions reduced to one machine at the Central Station and one, at one of the out-stations. Instructions were given that when answering calls only the necessary men and equipment should be left at the fire except when property was seriously endangered.
"We received In all 45 calls during the period, 7 p.m. and midnight, and even with the special precautions taken the brigade would have been in serious difficulties had a serious fire occurred in the city. BYLAWS IGNORED. "The whole trouble arises from the fact that the public are apparently permitted—although this is contrary to the city bylaws—to, light fires and discharge fireworks adjacent to property and extensive vegetation growths without any effective restriction. The danger to the city arising in consequence is undoubtedly a serious*, one, and, in my opinion, the attention of the city authorities should be called to the position and some genuine effort made to prevent a recurrence of this hazard.
"Although I do not wish to appear a 'killjoy,' I would suggest for consideration that either the discharge of fireworks be totally prohibited, as is done in some cities, or, alternatively, that special areas be set aside in each district where Guy Fawkes celebrations can be held in safety. I am satisfied that nothing short of extreme measures such as this will reduce the fire hazard to a reasonable limit.
"I would also point but that the cost to the board of the evening's amusement to the public is very considerable. In addition to the running costs of the machines, all of which, with the exception of the telescopic ladder, were on duty at one time or another, extra pay for auxiliaries is necessary, and a number- of other minor expenses are involved. As indicated above, however, the most important consideration is that the brigade is completely disorganised during this period and could not function effectively if a serious city fire occurred. This factor must be considered apart altogether from the lesser plant and personnel available.
"In conclusion, I would point out for the information of the City Council that of the 45 calls received, 27 involved fires on City Council property. The, experience of the brigade generally is that most vegetation fires are on City Council property, the percentage for the past year being 52." COST TO BOARD. The chairman (Mr. N. W. Kelson) asked the superintendent what he estimated it cost the board on Guy Fawkes night for turn-outs. Mr. M. F. Marks: Include in that estimate what you consider not only the absolute cost, but the cost in deterioration of your plant by the turn-outs. j
The superintendent: I would put it down at £5 per call at a minimum.
Mr. Dean: That is £225 for the night. We could give a fine fireworks display ourselves.
Referring to the fires mentioned in the superintendent's report as having occurred on City Council property, Councillor M. F. Luckie asked whether they were on reserves. :
Mr. Woolley said that these fires included fires on the Town Belt.
Councillor Luckie: What other places besides the Town Belt? We don't permit celebrations of this kind on city properties as far as I know.
Mr. Woolley: You can't guard againstit, sir. We try to keep it within reasonable limits, but it is impossible.
Mr. Dean said that fires on Petone Beach could be controlled. Where he lived there was a tremendous amount of gorse on council property, and with sky-rockets coming down there was always a danger of fire. He thought some effort should be made, if the displays were to continue, to limit them to certain localities. In his opinion the board should co-operate with the City Council and see if something could be done. The chairman suggested that a copy of the superintendent's report be forwarded to the Town Clerk. CITY ENGINEER'S SUGGESTION. Mr. Woolley said he had shown a copy of his report to the City Engineer, who was quite in agreement that something should be done. The City. Engineer had suggested that the Director of Parks and Reserves, the City Engineer, the Government Inspector of Fire Brigades, and himself should meet in conference and discuss the matter.
Councillor Luckie said that was a good plan. A report, he assumed, would be forwarded after, the conference, to the City Council and the board.
Councillor W. J. Gaudin: It isn't that we want to cut out an old custom, but that we want to control it.
Mr. Marks said that in large cities overseas the celebration of Guy Fawkes Day by bonfires and fireworks had died out. It would be a nice sort of thing if fireworks were set off in London.
Councillor T. Brindle: It is the sale of fireworks that make it, -you know.
| Mr. Marks said he was sorry to say that some parents were just as bad as | the children. Although fires at Pctone were confined to the beach, if ttore wm a kowJiog soutte^ gey.
perty i iear the beach would not be safe there < either. The chairman said that that was the concer v of the Petone Borough Council, j Mr.; Marks said he thought that even if the bonfires were confined to certain place-i there should be power to prohibit i Ires and fireworks being set off if the weather was not favourable.
Cour ;cillor Luckie said that Wellington >ji :s so peculiarly situated and so open, tto conflagration hazards that ft was xl lore essential here than in other plac tf.s that drastic steps should be taken i either to modify or suppress the practid c.
Mr. 4 Dijan: I suppose there are more noxio a s. weeds on City Council property 1 me than in other parts of the world., !
Coun'j illor Luckie: Not noxious weeds., i
Mr. T )ean '(laughing): Isn't gorse a noxiotu . weed?
The; ixhairman said that what had to be don c was a matter for the City Council . What he was concerned about ■« 'as the cost of £225 to the board on Guj Fawkes Night for nothing.
Mr. 1 darks said that if there had been ;& big city fire on Guy Fawkes Night -'Jne did not know where they would ] lave been.
The i Jt«ard approved of the conference it. ict decided io await a report from t\is coDlereucfli
GUY FAWKES NIGHT, Evening Post, Volume CXXIV, Issue 121, 18 November 1937
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