Keeping communities safe during any crisis

Cleaning house . . . Local firefighters Leonard Cunningham (left) and Brayden Brice finish a station sweep-up before Tuesday night training. PHOTO: NICK BROOK
Tail end . . . Tailing and shearing are go-to fundraisers for the Clutha Valley Volunteer Fire Brigade. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The frequency of fire brigade sirens is due to the volunteers being general first-responders, attending an array of other emergencies in addition to fires.

Yet your community fire brigade has plenty to keep them busy even when the sirens aren’t sounding.

‘‘We get a good turnout for training every Tuesday night,’’ Deputy Chief Fire Officer Richard Hunter said.

‘‘We generally start with a cleanup and check-up of the station and all the gear.’’

With diligent housekeeping at least once a week it’s no surprise that everything from station doors and vehicles to helmets and boots are in top working order, so maintenance is quick and the team turns towards its operational drills.

‘‘Some nights we’ll go over theory and others are practical.

‘‘We might just run out the hoses a few times, checking the connections and technique and seeing how fast it can be done.

‘‘Most of us have done it countless times but it’s all for practice because fast responses save lives and property.

‘‘Something we’re always mindful of is some advice from the late, legendary fire trainer Keith Ferris ‘Don’t make it your own emergency’, meaning always look after yourself first, don’t take unnecessary risks.’’

A strong social element also binds firefighting teams effectively to each other and their communities.

Firefighting has its own trade-sports, where teams at local, regional and national level go head-to-head in competitions refined from essential drills.

Service and reliability are recognised and rewarded with rank and national awards.

The Clutha Valley Volunteer Fire Brigade has an awards ceremony every two years, when no fewer than 14 volunteers receiving stars, bars or medals in 2021, including CFO John Kee for 31 years on duty.

If there’s a local function or event there’s a good chance the part-time firefighters will be raising the tone with big, gleaming vehicles and clean equipment that nonetheless shows the wear of being at the business end of emergency duty.

Volunteer stations also become experts at managing their own events and appeals, and the Clutha Valley team’s go-to fundraisers include lamb-tailing, crutching and shearing.

Many ordinary people living regular lives naturally feel a call to adventure, a need for excitement and an opportunity to show how they value their community by being of value to it.

A local volunteer fire brigade can be the ideal outlet for these useful and noble values, and stations are always ready to hear from men and women with commitment.

Contact your local station or check out the Fire and Emergency New Zealand website.

When you’ve registered your interest in volunteering, you’ll be matched to your local brigade and begin steps to becoming part of a volunteer fire brigade.

Step 1: Interview

You meet with the leader of your local brigade. You may be invited to attend regular training sessions as an observer.

Step 2: Online application

If you both agree you’re a good candidate for volunteering, the brigade leader will help you to complete your application.

Step 3: Background and medical checks

All volunteers must pass police vetting. Firefighters and anyone who responds to medical emergencies must pass a medical test. Operational support volunteers need to do a medical self-assessment.

Step 4: Processing

Applications take about 30 days to process. We will contact you about whether your application has been successful or not, and the reasons why.

Step 5: Welcome to the team

If your application is successful you may become part of the brigade. Once accepted, we’ll issue you with a uniform and you’ll start attending regular training nights.

Depending on the brigade, wearing a uniform or attending training may be optional for brigade support volunteers.

Step 6: Training

Depending on the role, you’ll start a formal training programme. This may include formal training courses, which are held locally or at our training centres and are up to a week long.