Busy Balclutha brigades train for diverse scenarios

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JOHN.COSGROVE@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Last year, the Balclutha Fire Brigade volunteers turned out 201 times to answer the call to help someone in their community.

Balclutha Brigade Chief Fire Officer Jason Lyall said that was their busiest year so far.

“Normally, it’s about 180 calls a year but you have to take that in context.

“While it sounds like one call every one and a-half days, some times we can go for a week or two without an alarm and then in one day we could have three to four calls. It’s never a given that you will get one every other day.

“Because of new changes within the country with Fenz [Fire and Emergency New Zealand] we now respond to any emergency call for assistance.”

Mr Lyall said this was why the Fenz volunteer training and support was so extensive, as they had to respond to every emergency from civil to traffic, fire to medical.

“This is just the way the cookie crumbles; you may respond to a motor vehicle accident one day, a hedge fire the next and then one where a person is trapped in a room — it’s different every time.

“While it’s exciting it is also very rewarding because you are helping someone in need at the one time when they really need someone to be there to help them,” he said.

The Balclutha brigade is the biggest in the district with one pump fire engine, one rescue pump, one tanker and one operational support vehicle.

“We are the biggest in East Otago and we will always help any of the other brigades in the region on callouts,” Mr Lyall said.

As the biggest, the Balclutha brigade also has the largest number of volunteers assembled into two watches.

“We are provided by Fenz with top notch training and as our role moves more into medical responses wehave to train our volunteers to be able to respond to anything and everything.

“That’s why we are looking for more volunteers in all the brigade, we are seeking a diverse range of people to help us work within the community: Men, women and those of different backgrounds — everyone has something to offer,” Mr Lyall said.

“Fenz also reimburses volunteers when they have to go away for training sessions.
Overall, Mr Lyall said most employers in the district were very supportive of brigade volunteers.

“We get a great amount of support from all our employers here in the Balclutha community, even from those who have no physical involvement with the brigade. It’s wonderful how they help us out throughout the year.

The brigade’s motto is ‘‘family first’’ and throughout the year it organises many social events to help and support members’ families.

Interested? Go to the Balclutha fire station on any Wednesday evening to talk to the senior officers there or ring Balclutha Chief Fire Officer Jason Lyall on 027 418-1303.