Penguins to join firefighting effort

Cold comfort . . . Donated plush penguins will help Balclutha Fire Brigade comfort youngsters at emergency callouts. Holding some of the birds are (from left) Aidan Lyall (11), chief fire officer Jason Lyall, Daniel Fenton, Wyatt Murray (1) and station officer Stacey Murray. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

[email protected]

A Balclutha born ice-man came back with some warm teddies for Balclutha Volunteer Fire brigade.

Daniel Fenton returned to New Zealand last November after spending 403 days at Scott Base as a communications technician ultimately contracted to Crown entity Antarctica New Zealand.

Before deployment, all Scott Base support staff are required to undertake a customised recruitment course at the Christchurch Fire and Emergency New Zealand training centre, and on his return, Mr Fenton visited and compared notes with the local Balclutha Brigade.

‘‘On ice we form the Scott Base Volunteer Brigade, and we’re trained and drilled to respond to all manner of calls including fire, medical, casualty and hazardous materials incidents,’’ he said.

‘‘Undertaking the training and serving as a breathing apparatus operator during my time at Scott Base gave me a greater appreciation for all the hard work, dedication and training our local brigades back home put in.’’

Fire safety is taken especially seriously in the Antarctic.

As one of the driest, windiest environments in the world with limited access to liquid water, any fire there is potentially catastrophic, and Scott Base is fitted with numerous protection systems including heat and smoke detectors, sprinklers, hydrants, hoses and more than 168 fire extinguishers. ‘‘As a token of goodwill and appreciation I donated some penguin soft toys from Scott Base to the Balclutha brigade. They will join the collection of other soft toys carried on their appliances that are given out to support children involved in any incidents they attend.’’

Balclutha Fire Brigade Station Officer Stacey Murray was grateful for the the plush penguins and said they would help firefighters in an important role.

‘‘Inevitably, children are involved in our work, so anything we can offer to help them manage the stress is really appreciated,’’ she said.

Mr Fenton said the warnings and advice Antarctic professionals had been given for transitioning back to normal life was very real.

‘‘For 14 months you’re busy inside most of the time. When you do go outdoors it’s into one of the coldest, most inhospitable and deserted environments on earth . . . then the Hercules loading door comes down at Christchurch airport and it’s hot, there’s traffic, buildings and people everywhere . . . even the supermarket can feel like sensory overload.

‘‘I’m reconnected with family and work and easing back into it, but I still have the air-conditioning down as low as it will go.’’

He said it had been a privilege to help keep Scott Base infrastructure running so visiting science personnel were free to focus on some of the most advanced technology and research on the planet.