In recent times, there have been a number of large fires in the Warkworth and Matakana areas and beyond. These have included residential houses, a rugby league clubrooms, an automotive workshop, a school and a derelict house. On each of these occasions there has been a healthy gathering of public onlookers. This is not unusual. In the main, such onlookers are well behaved, stay out of the way and are there for the natural interest and excitement of the event. I don’t wish to sound like the ‘Fun Police,’ however, I bring the following to your attention for your consideration.
While it is important for firefighters to protect life and community property, it is vitally important that they protect their own health and well-being. They do this by wearing protective clothing, which includes heavy, fire retardant jacket and trousers, helmet, gloves and, importantly, on most occasions, they will also be wearing breathing apparatus. I mention this because every fire scene is a dangerous place and could contain a large number of hazards, which could be a danger not only to firefighters, but also to members of the public standing nearby. You may well be putting yourself and your family at risk.
So what is a safe distance? It could be a few hundred metres, or it could be much, much further than that, depending on the circumstances. For example, an exploding gas bottle could send shards of steel hundreds of metres in much the same way as an exploding bomb. Let’s face it, none of us would hang around to watch a bomb explode! Toxic smoke or invisible gases can contain many harmful substances, which could spread for thousands of metres in any direction and could be breathed in unknowingly. You may not become aware of the damage to yourself for many hours, days or maybe even years later.
In summary, a T-shirt, shorts and jandals just don’t cut the mustard as safety gear and neither is your hand held over your nose the recommended breathing apparatus. So give it some thought before going for a look at any fire incident. Is it worth the risk to yourself and your family? Far better to distance yourself from potential harm. Better still, wait for a well organised Guy Fawkes display for your entertainment. It will probably be more spectacular, but most of all, your lungs will love you for it.