Get­ting paid for his pas­sion


South Otago vol­un­teer fire­fighter Kevin Sut­ton has turned his pas­sion into a job.

For the last few months, the Kai­tan­gata vol­un­teer fire bri­gade mem­ber has been eas­ing him­self into a new ca­reer path as the Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand East Otago area vol­un­teer sup­port of­fi­cer.

There were two Otago of­fi­cers, but with the merger of ur­ban, ru­ral and vol­un­teer fire ser­vices into FENZ last year, a third po­si­tion was cre­ated.

And it turned out the job had his name writ­ten all over it.

Sut­ton, 55, worked for Bal­clutha Honda for 38 years, first as a me­chanic then in sales and man­age­ment.

He has be­longed to the Kai­tan­gata bri­gade for 31 years and com­peted with dis­tinc­tion in fire bri­gade events for most of that time.

‘‘The fire bri­gade, it’s what I’ve al­ways done. It’s just been a way of life.’’

Then came the Fire and Emer­gency merger in June, which marked the start of a three-year in­te­gra­tion phase when fire­fight­ing ser­vices would all come un­der the same um­brella.

‘‘I was quite happy do­ing what I was do­ing but the job came up.’’

His ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge of the equip­ment and re­sources needed by brigades worked in his favour for what was a sought-af­ter job.

A role was cre­ated and for the first time, would be Bal­clutha-based.

‘‘It takes the heat off the other VSOs and it gives the brigades some­one on their doorstep.’’

Hav­ing lo­cal knowl­edge helped in such a vast dis­trict, he said.

He looks af­ter seven Clutha brigades, Bal­clutha, Kaka Point, Owaka, Wai­w­era South, Clin­ton, Ta­panui and He­riot.

The job is mainly about man­ag­ing re­sources such as breath­ing ap­pa­ra­tus, uni­forms and re­plac­ing failed equip­ment, as well as help­ing with pa­per­work and re­ports. He still re­sponds as a vol­un­teer to call-outs. The job is ini­tially for two years, but he ex­pects it could last longer as the new or­gan­i­sa­tion evolves.

‘‘The way ru­ral and ur­ban fire­fight­ers deal with fires hasn’t changed, but it will be a huge thing to come un­der the same ban­ner. It’s not go­ing to be achieved in just two years. It could be five to 10 years.’’

Sut­ton feels lucky to be in the role: ‘‘It’s great to be do­ing what you love and get­ting paid for it.’’

Fire and Emer­gency New Zealand East Otago area vol­un­teer sup­port of­fi­cer Kevin Sut­ton of Kai­tan­gata.

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