Fire chiefs keep up call for help

Northern News - - OUT & ABOUT - BAY­LEY MOOR

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

BAY­LEY MOOR/FAIR­FAX NZ

Kaikohe chief fire of­fi­cer Bill Hutchin­son and Muri Whenua fire com­man­der Wi­pari Hen­wood are con­tin­u­ing the push for more fire­fight­ers.

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