Fire chiefs keep up call for help
Far North good sorts have stepped up to help their communities by becoming local firefighters.
But fire chiefs are still calling out for more volunteers, especially in small towns like Kaeo and on the West Coast.
Thirteen people have signed up with their local brigade since our Northern News story ’Firefighter shortage fears’, where Kaikohe chief fire officer Bill Hutchinson and other high-ranking firefighters highlighted the struggle to respond to emergencies during the work day.
Of those, six people have signed up in Kaikohe, three in Rawene and four in Kohukohu. These brigades and others including Kaeo and Russell are still very short on numbers, and they need more community support, says Muri Whenua fire commander Wipari Henwood.
Henwood says Kaikohe is a central brigade that often supports stations in the Hokianga as well as the Bay of Islands area.
He says brigades on the West Coast and Kaeo are struggling for numbers with limited employment and housing opportunities meaning that people may work out of town.
Hutchinson says in the week from May 12, where the Kaikohe brigade responded to a major ammonia spill at Moerewa, they also attended three fatal accidents, and responded to a total of 15 fire callouts.
He says this means the same people are attending the major incidents, but doesn’t want that to put off potential volunteers.
‘‘You are not dumped into those situations, we manage who attends incidents and support is provided,’’ Hutchinson says.
Volunteer recruits can complete their basic firefighters course after three months of training.
Hutchinson encourages interested people to visit their local fire brigade and have a chat to find out how they might be able to help.
Hutchinson, who has been a firefighter for 41 years, says it’s about being able to do something positive by contributing to the community.
‘‘You become part of a wider family and it’s an essential service. You get to do great things and meet great people. If you turn up we look after the training.’’
While the six new people signing up is positive he says, the brigade faced a similar shortage a few years ago.
There was an influx then but now some of those people have moved away for employment opportunities.
‘‘You become part of a wider family and it's an essential service. ’’ Bill Hutchinson
Kaikohe chief fire officer Bill Hutchinson and Muri Whenua fire commander Wipari Henwood are continuing the push for more firefighters.