The Te Atatu Fire Brigade is looking for new members. One of the busiest stations in Auckland, the brigade has enough members to cover four
shifts and not one spare to cover sickness or leave and that means that one day, there may be a property they can’t save or a life lost. In fact, that’s how the Te Atatu Brigade came into being. One day in 1968, there was such a delay in fire tenders from outside the area reaching a Te Atatu Peninsula fire, that it was obvious the area needed its own fire brigade. Members of the Henderson station successfully recruited 11 volunteer fire fighters from the community who completed their training while the Te Atatu station was being built. From there, a brigade and a very strong tradition was built.
Being a volunteer fire fighter provides fitness, skills, commitment, membership of a‘one-for-all-and-all-for-one’ elite, excitement and a special place in our community that the average citizen can’t have. Every time the volunteers go out they know that they are doing something worthwhile and when they come back they know that today or tonight, their community depended on them and they didn’t fail.
They may not think so, but to the rest of us, they are heroes.
There’s almost no age limit to being a volunteer. Male or female, the minimum age is 16 with parents’ consent and 18 without, with virtually no top limit if you can still do a job in the brigade. You must be fit and strong, committed to making it to training every Monday evening at 6.30 and ready to be rostered one week on and two off, on any of the three, eight hour watches around the clock.
This means you’ll need the support of your family and employer. In return, you get adventure, excitement, new transferable skills, friendships, camaraderie, the satisfaction of making a genuine difference, being involved with the community, getting really fit and doing something a lot of people may not be able to do in their lifetime.
This is the real McCoy. You’re not making tea, sweeping out the fire station or polishing the trucks. The volunteers are real fire fighters. In fact, the majority of fire fighters available to the New Zealand Fire Service is approximately 8,000 volunteers, who receive no payment for their time or labour. They respond to up to a third of all incidents attended by the fire service. Challenges include property, vehicle and vegetation fires, rescuing people from crashed vehicles, and from bizarre situations, containing and cleaning up hazardous materials and even that good old cliché of rescuing a cat from up a tree.
Some years ago, volunteer fire fighters in West Auckland even came up with a solution to neutralise a gigantic wasps’ nest several metres long, part way up a pine tree. The million plus wasps in the nest were stripping wood from neighbourhood fences, buildings and garden furniture and using it to put extensions on the nest, while posing an ever increasing risk to people.
Volunteers come from all walks of life. Initial training is done locally and culminates in a seven day residential recruit course, normally held at the National Training Centre (NTC) in Rotorua or the Woolston Training Centre in Christchurch.
Training includes hose drills, ladder drills, the use of portable pumps and breathing apparatus (BA), which is carried out in BATB (Breathing Apparatus Training Building) and RFTB (Realistic Fire Training Building) simulators. The BATB is a gasfired training facility and the RFTB is a live fire scenario.
Volunteer units also provide support services over and above the role of the fire fighter. Various Operational Support Units (OSUs) manned by volunteers are attached to Fire Districts and brigades across New Zealand, which provide non-fire fighting assistance at large scale incidents. These include traffic and crowd control, scene cordons and lighting, basic first aid, salvage, communications and logistics, and even catering.
While the Te Atatu brigade is looking for operational fire fighters, the men and women who drive the appliances and fight the fires, there are two other categories, operational support and brigade support.
Operational support staff carry out non hazardous duties such people and traffic control, transporting of equipment, assisting the incident controller leaving the fire fighters for more specific tasks.
Brigade support staff carry out roles like day to day administration for the brigade, or presenting fire safety programmes in schools.
If you are interested in joining the Te Atatu Volunteer Brigade please contact Herena on 021 629 872.