Firefighters fight fires, not police the population

Firefighters’ union opposes use of firefighters to collect information on people present at fires

by Susanne Kemp

The Fire and Emergency service (FENZ) has recently asked firefighters in Auckland Areas 3, 4 and 5 to take on an additional duty that has rather ominous implications.  Namely, to collect names and addresses of everyone on the premises of fires they attend.

The firefighters’ union, the NZPFU, has taken a good stand on the issue.  It has advised members, “(it) is not in your interest to collect these personal details.  We do not know how that information is to be used.”  The union has also stated that FENZ has never raised with them the notion that collecting such information might become part of firefighters’ duties.

The union notes that while firefighters talk about fire safety and prevention with people present once a fire has been put out, it is not the job of the responding firefighters to collect information on people.

FENZ has its own means for pursuing fire investigations, fire safety and recurring problems, says the union.

Wattie Watson, the NZPFU national secretary, has reported to union members that, “We have been informed that requests for personal information have been met with suspicion and concern by those at the scene.

“It is not part of your duties and could seriously harm the reputation of firefighters as protectors of the community.”

Too often in this country people do what they are told by people in authority, even when it involves some form of attack on the rights of others.  The firefighters’ union is saying their role is to fight fires and help improve fire safety and prevention, not gather personal information on people and play a policing-type role.  Good for the NZPFU.

A lot of firefighter coverage on Redline can be found here.