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.