Firefighters feeling the heat
A shortage of volunteers means exhausted firefighters are being pushed to the brink.
Blenheim Volunteer Fire Brigade is operating under capacity - about 10 people short of operational requirements.
Chief Fire Officer Nigel Botham is appealing for people to come forward to help out as volunteers, especially in Blenheim town centre. The station currently has 32 active members, a drop of 11 since this time last year.
The staffing shortage means existing volunteers have to work even harder, particularly during the day, he says.
‘‘As numbers drop it does put pressure on existing members so it’s obviously better if we operate at full capacity.
People moving away or leaving because of other commitments has seen volunteer numbers dwindle.
‘‘Unfortunately, this has been one of the years where we have seen people move. It’s not like they hate the place or anything; they’re moving-on for genuine reasons.
‘‘Our loss can often be another region’s gain as people move and volunteer elsewhere,’’ he says.
Botham says firefighters have to be at the Blenheim station within a few minutes of their pagers going off.
This can cause problems, especially when volunteers live or work outside Blenheim.
‘‘We can accommodate shift workers for example on a caseby-case basis.
‘‘There’s real value to joining our family where you can learn some really valuable skills and get recognised for the service you do.
‘‘There are a couple of volunteers here coming up to getting their 25-year service medals but that’s a bit of a dying breed and we’re lucky if we get five-years-plus out of someone now.
‘‘Marlborough has quite a high percentage of transient workers,’’ he says.
Firefighter Jennifer Ruffell has been a volunteer for 18 years and says the staffing deficit has affected everyone.
‘‘It puts a lot of pressure on volunteers who become very tired, very quickly.
‘‘Employers are feeling the strain of letting them [volunteers] go too.
‘‘It would be great to get some volunteers who live or work just a few minutes away from the sta- tion,’’ she says.
For the past two years, Blenheim Volunteer Fire Brigade have received about 500 calls a year.
There is no age limit on volunteers but potential candidates should have a reasonable level of fitness and be in good health.
Applicants will also have to go through police checks and a health check.
‘‘We’re a close-knit team as we spend such a lot of time together,’’ says Botham.
To find out more visit facebook.com/blenheimvolunteerfirebrigade or contact Nigel Botham on: 027 344 6354. Training takes place every Monday at the station and potential volunteers are welcome.