New Zealand’s Ngaruawahia Fire Brigade is the first fire squadron in the country to receive a Jetski. A fundraiser enabled the brigade to purchase the ski. The team raised $16,995 through sponsorships from local businesses, such as the Ngaruawahia Golf Club and the Horotiu based Kawasaki dealership, Nautique, donated $10,000.
“Just being up the road as well we wanted to help out in the local community,”Elliot McNutt of Nautique said.
The money netted the brigade a 4-cylinder, 4-stroke, Kawasaki STX 15F Jet Ski with a 160hp engine. The department realized a jet ski was badly needed after pulling off a daring rescue of a little girl caught in the turbulent waters of the Waikato River. She was swept downstream and managed to grab a piling while volunteer firefighter Nathan Spitzer was stripping down so he could swim out and make the rescue. She was hypothermic by the time he reached her. Fortunately, she survived the close call.
The PWC is equipped with four rescue vests and throw bags and is specific to swift water rescue. A spotlight and beacon will soon be added. Fire Chief Karl Lapwood says the craft will enable crew members to quickly reach people in distress without risking the lives of firefighters attempting to swim out to save them.
The Jet Ski has already served its purpose. It was used in a couple of river rescues within three weeks. It hasn’t been easy getting the ski approved for use. Lapwood worked with Fire and Emergency NZ during the course of last year to gain approval. He put health and safety plans and SOP’s together so he could get a board of regional managers’ stamp of approval for the use of a Jet Ski.
Under the Fire and Emergency Act 2017, volunteer brigades are allowed to perform work outside of the scope of firefighting. The firefighters must undergo swiftwater training before using the Jet Ski for rescue. Ten firefighters have passed the swift course held at Manukau waterpark making them eligble for water rescue. The Jet Ski is a welcome addition to the brigade and according to Lapwood it will get a lot of time on the water.
“It will be used for any water rescues – cars in the river, swimmers in trouble, animals in the river, search and rescue. The plan is to complement the Huntly rescue boat with our jet ski and do a combined response across the Waikato”, according to Lapwood.
The next order of business is to have the ski completely outfitted for rescue including the purchase of a rescue sled.