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Advertising feature - April 2017


FIREFIGHTERS From July 1 the New Zealand Fire Service and the National Rural Fire Authority will join forces to form Fire and Emergency New Zealand (FENZ). The Fire Service, Rural Fire, 12 enlarged rural fire districts and 26 territorial authority rural fire authorities will amalgamate over the course of four years with the aim of building a modern, nationwide service integrating what are currently separate urban, rural, volunteer and paid firefighting forces. The project will also set up local advisory committees to ensure Fire and Emergency New Zealand is linked strongly to the communities it serves and protects.

Thank you to all Mid Canterbury’s volunteer firefighters, their businesses and families.



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Saturday, April 15, 2017



Over the course of two weeks, Guardian sub-editor Lisa Fenwick talked to 14 volunteer firefighters about their brigades or fire forces, their teams and why they do what they do. Every one of them talked about giving back to their communities and helping people in need. She was, quite simply, impressed by the level of commitment that every one of these people give, time and time again, to keep their people, land and buildings safe.

Ashburton Rural Fire Force Ashburton Rural Fire Force chief and rural fire officer Greg Bruce has been a fireman for 41 years (even though he assures me he’s not “that old”) and he feels humbled to work with such a good bunch of guys. “It’s like your second family,” he said. “We all get on really well.” I asked him what keeps him volunteering for so long and his answer resonates with many of the other firefighters I’ve talked to. “I think it’s the fact that you are able to go and help people that need it. That’s the big thing that keeps you going. Knowing that you can assist in some way. You want to give something back to your community, so that’s what you do. “I think we get as much out of it as what we put in — seeing the appreciation on people’s faces — that’s what you get out of it, I think, at the end of the day.” “Seeing the appreciation makes it all worthwhile.” He said another huge part of it is the camaraderie. They go on camping trips every year, never too far away from Ashburton though, in case they’re needed. “And the families. It’s all about the families. “All the families are really supportive. They’re right behind their husbands or their kids. And that’s why you try and make sure that when you’re doing social stuff, that they’re all part of it.” His team of 14 are trained in first aid, but don’t go to medical events or car accidents. “We’re mostly vegetation and we do some structure work (houses, sheds, etc from the outside).” The Ashburton Fire Brigade usually goes out to the medical events – car accidents etc. “We’re assistance as opposed to being first on the scene. But saying that, we are


The Ashburton Rural Fire Force works closely with the Ashburton Fire Brigade. about the crew. trained in first aid and we do Greg said. “It’s a big call on employers “We’re a 4WD unit, so we go carry a defib (defibrillator) as well. All the ones in our fire when 4WD is needed.” with us.” It’s classified as a 4WD tank- force have really supportive The Ashburton Rural Fire Force works closely with the er and can accommodate five employers.” “Overall I would like to Ashburton Fire Brigade and or six crew and can carry 3600 thank the employers and famwhile the rural team gets litres of water. around 40 call-outs a year, the Years ago, Greg remembers ilies of the fire force members. brigade will get around 400. a fire at Mt Cook and Ashbur“But the other thing is, I’d “We’re really lucky, I mean ton crews were asked to help like to thank Don Geddes for I look at the Ashburton boys out. everything he’s done. Since and they’re doing 400 call-outs “We had a crew go down. he’s been principal rural fire a year. That’s huge, massive.” That was all a good experience officer he’s done some reActually, after July 1 when cause we were out in steeper ally good stuff — getting new alterations to the Ashburton country than we would nor- trucks and stations around the Volunteer Fire Station on Bur- mally be on and that was Ashburton area. I think he’s nett Street are completed, the something you never forget done a great job.” Don is actually a member of rural team will be packing up about.” Another event he remem- the Ashburton rural unit, as is at South Street and sharing premises with the brigade. bers well was in 2012 with the Terry O’Neill, who had a for“We’ve got a really good re- big winds. estry accident and ended up “We got a call-out and we in a wheelchair. lationship with the Ashburton had a new recruit with us, a “We don’t let him off the boys around there anyway. “And we’re all there to do young lady. There were strong hook either.” “We said to him ‘you’re still the same job. We’re all there winds and we were going up to help our community. That’s the road and she said ‘I don’t part of us and that’s the way like this’. it’s going to stay’. And that’s the important part of it all.” “I said ‘don’t worry, we won’t what family does.” While the Ashburton Rural Terry did the New York MarFire Force was originally part put you in any dangerous situof the county council, around ations’. But as we were head- athon in his wheelchair a cou20 years ago they formed their ing up to Alford Forest, seeing ple of years ago and the unit own unit with only about trees just blowing over as you raised funds to help get him three or four firefighters turn- went up the road and sheds over there. blown to bits. “He’s (Terry) been a real ining out. “I guess it’s frightening. spiration to us and we try and A couple of decades on and the unit boasts 14, with a cou- But you know you’ve got eve- help where we can.” Terry is the unit’s secretary/ ple of new guys joining just ryone around you and I feel before Christmas. very humble at the people treasurer, he comes along to They cover the area closest I’ve got working with me. You training ... and while it’s not Keep your home practical for him the to go out to a to Ashburton, but go out to know you can rely on them. perfect temperature fire, “he’s part of our crew and Westerfield, Winchmore, WaYou feel very comfortable with Keep your home the we willROUND not let him away with the people you’ve got working kanui and anywhere perfect they’re temperature ALL YEAR with being a part of our crew”, with you.” needed basically. ALL YEAR ROUND with Keep your homenot the But, he says, perfect it’s not temperature just Greg said. “As and when required,”



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Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade The Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade is the grand-daddy of the Mid Canterbury brigades. It has been around for nearly 150 years and deputy chief fire officer Graeme Baker has been a firefighter for a third of that. He joined in 1966 and still enjoys firefighting and also assists chief fire officer Alan Burgess with some of the administration. Fire Service resources have changed considerably over the years – from older heavier woollen uniforms compared to the lighter fire-resistant ones used currently. Fire appliances have changed dramatically from the old open cab type to the hi-spec appliances used today. Nowadays health and safety is paramount, which is the way it should be: hence breathing apparatus is worn

at a lot of fire calls. When he joined, the brigade was dealing with approximately 100 calls per year. Nowadays the 31 volunteers respond to 400-plus calls per year. “That is more than a call a day, and yes it is a big commitment”, but Graeme said when they are called, someone is in trouble and requires help from a group of people who willingly sacrifice their time to assist those in need. “The brigade is like a big family and we rely on looking out for each other, both on the fire ground and in our everyday lives.” The Ashburton brigade has three modern frontline appliances, a water tanker and also a van which is used as a command point at major calls. The type of call-outs vary – the Fire Service has an agree-

ment with St John, so “a lot of our calls are medical whether it is an accident or to assist with CPR on a person who has suffered a heart attack”, Graeme said. Over the years there has been a huge increase in responding to motor vehicle accidents. They have more sophisticated cutting equipment now for extricating people out of cars than what they had in the early days. The Fire Service has strategies in place for dealing with serious incidents, they have an extremely good counselling and support system available if required. The brigade has its fair share of false alarms (alarm activations) and, Graeme said, that is part of the job – it’s just one of those things that happen. While they don’t struggle for volunteers as a rule, it

has slowed down, probably because of the commitment involved. “We need to take people who are available during the day and work in town. “That is one of the biggest things we ask of people. We are in the process of looking at some of the people who have shown an interest in joining the Fire Service. “It is a big commitment, sometimes we can have three or four calls a day,” Graeme said. It can be hard on the families at times when the brigade is called during a storm, flooding etc, families are left to cope on their own. Graeme wants to thank the employers for allowing the firefighters to leave work to attend calls and the volunteers’ families. He also wants to thank the brigade members for their commitment.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Upper Rakaia Valley Rural Fire Force Proud to support Mid Canterbury’s Volunteer Firefighters We specialise in Farm Machinery & Effluent Systems

While firefighter Jim Nelson has lived in Methven for twoand-a-half years, he spent the bulk of his working life living and working on the Upper Rakaia Valley’s Glenaan Station as the farm machinery syndicate manager (looking after machinery for five high country stations), and it’s during this time that he became a rural firefighter. The force probably averages one major fire event a year and, these days, Jim doesn’t get out to the action much, but he’s there if he’s needed. He’s a school bus driver in Methven and “you can’t just not be there to pick the kids up” while off fighting a fire. Jim was also responsible for the firefighting machinery when he lived in the Rakaia Gorge. “It’s pretty relaxed up there (the Gorge), but behind the relaxed attitude, there’s a bunch of people who know what they’re doing.” The Upper Rakaia Valley Rural Fire Force has a medium rural fire appliance, with a 2000-litre tank and a Wayjaxtype pump. They even have another

pump, that’s totally portable. There’s a third high-volume pump on a trailer these days, that’s for filling tankers and things. Around 10-12 firefighters make up the team and when Jim went there in 1979, they had a NZ Fire Service Wayjax kit (a trailer with a Wayjax pump in it). “In those days it was pretty much anyone who was in the area was in the fire brigade.” The unit ended up with a Land Rover fire unit, which was a big advance for them. “And then we put the Wayjax kit in that and had that as our firefighting resource.” After that came the highvolume pump and other things, ending up, in the early 2000s, getting the rural fire appliance. Around that time they built a fire station up there, around 2006 or 7, Jim reckons. It sits on Glenaan Station, which is quite central to the other stations. “Actually the fire station is a great asset to the community. It’s got a really good smoko room where we can have community events.


2010 Isuzu NPS 300 also called Upper Rakaia 8771. “And that’s all considered as part of team building. It’s getting people together in a social manner, that’s all part of it. If you socialise together, you’re going to fight fires together better too, because you’ll know everybody better. You work together better as a team.” And they need to be a good, cohesive team when the bigger fires need battling. There is one call-out that sticks in Jim’s mind. A paddock of grain went on fire. One of the things

that happened there was the fire jumped about three paddocks. “There was a bit of a whirlwind came along and it picked up a pile of straw; lifted it way over the top of the trees and dropped it down by the homestead.” The farmer’s wife came up to us and said: “Is anybody going to come and put this fire out by the homestead?” We were like “what fire?” “It was probably 500m that it carried the fire before it dropped it down again.”

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The Rakaia Volunteer Fire Brigade does a bit of everything and even carries cutting gear, the jaws of life, so they’re pretty busy for a one-truck station. Formed in 1952, the brigade has a new chief at the helm, Tyrone Burrowes, who took over the role in December. He joined in 1995, moved his way up to station officer, then deputy and now chief. He’s responsible for 18 volunteers, with call-outs averaging 180-200 a year and they seem to be getting busier. “We’ve always done medical calls (jobs that St John request us to attend), but we’re now a first response brigade. It hasn’t really increased our workload, it’s just made it more of an official title, of something we’ve always been doing. We’re a first responder to medical calls, so if someone’s having a cardiac arrest we’re actually a first response, so we’ve obviously got a bit

Rakaia Fire Brigade May 2016.


more equipment now that we’re trained to that next level.” Being on the border of a fire district and a district council makes Rakaia a bit unique. “When we cross the river we’re dealing with the Selwyn council” and their area goes just up past Synlait. And any fire in their district the Rakaia brigade goes to, whether it be vegetation or structural. “The Fire Service covers rural also, so it doesn’t matter what type of fire, if it’s in our patch we get turned

out. We work closely with Lauriston and Pendarves (rural fire forces). “We don’t get a lot of structure (building) fires, but obviously vegetation fires are up there,” Tyrone said. Vegetation, motor vehicle accidents and medical calls are probably their top jobs. Probably one of the tougher parts of the job would be vehicle accidents, but they’ll always turn up to the station and go if there are seats on the truck. “There’s peer support and

counselling available and if there’s a major event we always do a debrief and bring in other guys if there’s deaths involved, but we’re always checking on the welfare of the guys after an event like that.” Tyrone said it can be hard to find day crews because they have a lot of people working out of town and shift workers. So if you’re local and available during the day, the Rakaia Volunteer Fire Brigade would be interested in hearing from you. Common-sense is another attribute that’s good, someone that’s an allrounder, able to get in and get the job done. The fire brigade’s a great way to make new friends and help out the community at the same time. Tyrone would like to thank volunteers’ employers, and particularly the self-employed, because they sometimes get forgotten about. And, of course, a big thanks to the families.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Pendarves Rural Fire Force Fifteen years ago the Pendarves Rural Fire Force (which at the time had been going for around 10 years) nearly folded. So a meeting was called and a few local farmers turned up, got behind it and got it all going again. One of those was Paul Stewart, now chief fire force controller for Pendarves. “It all started with a flyer in the mail, for me, that said there needed to be some support or the unit would fold. That was 2001. “The thought of losing that service in the district wasn’t good, we’re just as inclined to have fires as anyone else.” And, as Paul said, it makes a huge difference the closer you are to the fire or medical emergency. “It’s a big area towards the

Pendarves Rural Fire Force members. coast here and previous to that Rakaia and Ashburton covered it all ... so it’s a long time, from the time you dial 111 until the time you get a fire engine there.” Fifteen years on and they have 20 volunteers, with


numbers remaining fairly stable for years and handle around 40 call-outs a year (mostly vegetation, also medicals and motor vehicle accidents (MVA), and the odd structure fire). They have “an absolute-

ly splendid training facility – shed and training room” where they practice and have a meeting once a month and are eagerly awaiting a brand, spanking new yellow tanker soon. Paul reckons the fire chief should have dibs on having first drive. The team of mostly farm owners and workers does a fair bit socially and fundraise as well. “We’ve just been on a fishing trip. You’re in it with a good bunch of people, all like-minded, wanting to help your community. Paul would like to thank volunteers’ families. “We make sacrifices, but our families more so.” He’d also like to thank the Ashburton District Council “for their contribution over the years”.

Willowby Rural Fire Force Willowby Rural Fire Force chief Steve Russell has been a volunteer firefighter for 23 years and believes it’s that sense of community that makes the volunteers do what they do. His unit has 13 volunteers, averaging 30-35 call-outs a year, and they handle mostly vegetation and some structure (building) fires. Willowby received a relatively new truck around September last year. “Pretty much the same as the one we had, but it’s newer and we have a double cab now, which is quite nice. “Before we could only fit three (crew members) in and others had to make their own way there in separate vehicles. But now five can jump on the truck (which holds 6000 litres) and you’ve basically got a crew right from the word go. “What we do need now is a new shed. We’ve got a shed we can barely fit in. “It was just bad timing, we were on the list to get this all sorted out, but then the whole FENZ (Fire Emergency New Zealand) thing started and the Mid South Canterbury Enlarged Fire District started, so funding changed.

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126 Dobson Street, Ashburton Phone: 03 308 2059 Mobile: 0274 326 847

We are proud to support Mid Canterbury’s Volunteer Firefighters Original committee (from left) Colin Bearman, Ian Read, Bert Moore, Ramon Frazer and Fred Keen. “We’re still on the list, hopefully we’ll get something at some point,” Steve said. “To a certain extent now, the fire units that have got these better sheds and better social facilities have become the hub of the district. Whereas 20 or 30 years ago it was the community hall, there was always something happening there and that’s changed. Most of those halls have shut down, are not there, they couldn’t keep up the maintenance etc etc. “Lauriston (Rural Fire Force) was a prime example, I

mean they got their new shed and they’ve had a much greater increase in people joining up because of that.” He wants to say a huge thank you to crew and families. “Their time is absolutely appreciated, it really is, because it can be quite taxing at times.” Steve says that for the Willowby unit, daytime coverage can be an issue. But the good news is that they have a couple of new guys on board that are attached to the land.


The Willowby Rural Fire Force has been going for 40plus years. “It started with the locals. They wanted the ability to be able to deal with things locally here. And then it transformed from that into a fully-fledged fire service,” Steve said. “It got hooked up to the 111 system in the early 90s, the pagers came along and everything started to change from there. “Once the council got involved then a bit more money got chucked in and a vehicle was purchased and things got upgraded,” Steve said.

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

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Hinds Rural Fire Force Talk to Hinds Volunteer Rural Fire Force chief Dave Kingsbury and you get a real sense of the dedication and service to their community that drives people to put their time and energy into the fire service. Dave became a rural firefighter in 1981 when he shifted to Hinds, so he’s dedicated a good 36 years of his life to helping keep Hinds and other areas safe. The Hinds station, started in 1962 by a group of locals after a fire, now boasts around 22 volunteers, with the training of five new recruits going on at the moment. As far as equipment goes, Hinds has a rural appliance, which is essentially a mobile pump and carries medical equipment, and a tanker. And Dave’s responsible for all of it, but while his job may carry a heavier load, he won’t send anyone on a job that he can’t do himself. So in his area, as chief, he’s responsible for the safety of everyone, co-ordination of

Hinds Fire Service Dave Kingsbury. teams and monitoring of the situation. Safety of crews and members of the public is always paramount, Dave said. Most of their call-outs are vegetation fires, which is what the crew is mainly trained for, but they also attend motor vehicle accidents. “Essentially we are the only emergency service in Hinds. We are first responders.” While Dave believes the job’s not for everyone, Hinds will never turn a volunteer away. “We will utilise their


strengths. Everybody has different abilities/attributes that they can add to the crew.” And as first responders they do come across scenes that are horrific. “I’ve got some images and memories that I’m going to go to my grave with,” Dave said. But through it all is a “hell of a lot of camaraderie”. “I liken it to a family. At the end of the day you have to be able to rely on whoever you go in with. He or she has to get you out if anything goes wrong.”

And it’s not just the Hinds crew, Dave said. “We have neighbours we work with – Rangitata, Willowby, Mayfield, Ashburton, Ashburton rural. We’ve worked with Pendarves … and every volunteer has to be able to trust that the person they’re working alongside is going to have their best interests at heart.” As far as thanking anyone that helps the Hinds unit out goes, Dave won’t single any one person or business out at this stage, but they’ve recently attained a new shed, moving into it around Christmastime. “Thank everybody who helped us gain the facility that we have, so that we can continue to provide a service in our area. “There were a hell of a lot of people that helped us out. “I need to thank my other fire brigade members, and partners and spouses and siblings for allowing them to do what they do. And employers of those people.”

Mayfield Rural Fire Force The Mayfield Rural Fire Force have got it all in their station – a water tanker (put together by the Ashburton District Council), an ex-NZ Fire Service fire appliance and a St John ambulance. “We also have a trailer that the boys actually built up. It’s a small tank and pump, with the pump able to be used as a pumping station. The main purpose of it is that it can shift a lot of water in a hurry. It can go to a big fire and be used as a pumping station,” Mayfield chief fire officer Ian Fielder said. St John deals with the ambulance, but Ian said the firefighters and St John personnel work closely and well together and have a training session and get-together at least once a year. Mayfield, which is probably in its 60th year of operation, has 15 volunteers and Ian reckons that they’re all good friends and get on well together. The Mayfield team gets

called out to a mixture of medical assists, vehicle accidents, vegetation and house fires. While the majority of the Mayfield volunteers were trained mainly in vegetation fires, Ian says that in the past 10 to 15 years they’ve also started training in different aspects as well. “We’ve done house fire training. We don’t enter a house, but we are certainly, what we’d call, a first response to a house fire or first response to anything and we sort of secure the scene. “With a house fire we start the attack from the outside until the NZ Fire Service arrives with breathing apparatus,” Ian said. Ian said they’re always on the look-out for volunteers “and they aren’t always easy to find”. “Things have changed a lot, particularly in the rural fire sector,” Ian said. “Years ago, particularly when I first started (20-plus

Mayfield Rural Fire Force members during a recent practise. years ago), you went along, you joined and that was it. Nowadays you have to do a certain amount of training before you can enter the fire ground. There is a unit standard that you have to do. “You can’t just bowl up and jump on to a fire engine now.” And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s safety first, the volunteers have to be kept as safe as they can be.


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Ian would like to say thanks to Panther’s Rock (which is the local café/restaurant/ pub), for their ongoing support and the local garage. He also wants to say a huge thanks to the local community and his team, their families and the businesses that let them drop their jobs at a moment’s notice. “Thanking them just comes naturally,” Ian said.

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Clearwater Rural Fire Force Clearwater may be one of the newer rural fire forces in Mid Canterbury, with a lifespan of around 6-7 years, but it’s also unique in that the firefighters don’t live locally. Clearwater chief Greg Brake said he and Don Geddes, Ashburton District Council principal rural fire officer at the time, got it off the ground and it boasts 18-19 firefighters, with 10 newbies completing training around about now. Made up mostly of hutholders, it’s all about them protecting their own environment, so Greg said it certainly hadn’t been hard finding volunteers. And they need that many volunteers because no-one lives permanently at Clearwater. So when a call comes in, they hope that someone qualified is on the ground there, but, if not, it’s just the


Firefighters in action in the Lake Clearwater area. ones closest who can make it, which is usually Mt Somers. And it’s not just about their patch, either. “We have one of the bigger areas to look after in Mid and South Canterbury.” So like any other rural fire force, they mostly deal with

vegetation fires. “A little bit of structural (housing). We’re not allowed to go inside, but we can do outside.” From humble beginnings, the Mid South Canterbury Rural Fire Force has just provided them with a tanker

truck and that arrived Waitangi Weekend. Clearwater force has two buildings, one to house the tanker. Greg particularly wants to thank Don Geddes for all his help in getting Clearwater up and running and, also, the hutholders’ association and the Ashburton District Council for helping fund eight or nine 30,000-litre tanks around the village. “It is awesome. We can just hook up and blast it, by the time they’re empty, we’ve hopefully got back-up.” It may seem odd that at two lakes the fire force would need tanks, but the lakes can be a fair distance away from where a fire might be. It certainly gives the Clearwater crew a better chance of containing a fire quickly.

Methven Volunteer Fire Brigade The Methven Volunteer Fire Brigade marked its 90th anniversary last year and senior station officer, Brent Anderson, reckons Methven’s a great community to be in. They have the Methven Volunteer Fire Brigade Supporters’ Group, which includes members and ex-members. “They’ve set up an incorporated society and we bought the land next door, which is the old RSA area, and we have since built a tanker shed on it and plus we’ve just extended that building into another two bays for some of our old equipment to be stored in. So that was something that our brigade set up as a society to raise money to do the stuff ourselves.” Since they built that they do their fire safety programme with the kids in that building. “We’ve got a mezzanine floor set up with some mini firefighting uniforms for when the kids do their Fire Wise programmes.” The brigade has 24 members, two trucks, a tanker and attend roughly 100 call-outs a year, which are spread fairly evenly between vegetation and property fires, medical assists and motor

Firefighters are often called out in atrocious conditions. vehicle accidents. Brent said they’re certainly doing more medical and motor vehicle accidents than they used to. The Fire Service made an agreement with St John about five years ago “so we got called for medicals if there wasn’t a St John vehicle available”, Brent said. In the last financial year the Methven brigade attended 20 accidents, 28 vegetation fires and only eight property fires. Like many brigades and fire forces, they struggle a bit with


daytime turn-out. “At the moment we’ve got our quota (of volunteers), but we’re always looking for other members who are keen or interested in it,” Brent said. “And we’re trying to get more daytime people.” Brent reckons anybody can be a firefighter, you’ve just got to be keen to learn different things, because there’s a lot of training involved. The Methven outfit trains every two weeks, plus extra training in specialist courses

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as you go through. Ongoing training is just part of the job, but even the experienced guys are always learning and they even get trainers that come to their station at different times of the year. It’s a big commitment. “You’re on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week when you’re around town, and like I said, training as well and then you get the odd weekend training. Yep, it’s a pretty big commitment, for everybody really.” So why do they do what they do? “I guess we just want to make a difference ... you want to help people who are in need” and brigade members are like an extended family. “And you definitely have to thank your family,” Brent said. He wants to thank employers for letting employees take the time off work to volunteer and also the other brigade members “for watching your back when you’re at jobs and all working as a team really”. “And thank the community for supporting us as well, cause they do a great job helping us out. “The Methven community’s great anyway, so it’s certainly a good place to be.”

Thank you to all the Mid Canterbury Volunteer Firefighters, their families and employers.


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Ashburton Guardian


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Mt Somers Rural Fire Force • General farm maintenance • alkathene pipe laying • •irrigation mainline trenching • 8 & 20 tonne diggers • •tip truck & trailer •grader • •screen shingle supplies • tree removal •

Thank you volunteer firefighters for your outstanding commitment to the community Alistair Parris Owner/Operator 20 Hinds Gorge Rd RD 8 Ashburton 7778 Ph: 027 434 7278 E:

Richard Joseph is a crew boss with the Mt Somers Rural Fire Force, which began in 1957, and he believes it’s everyone doing their bit that makes a difference. The Mt Somers team has about 10 volunteers, who go to roughly 30-35 call-outs a year, using an appliance smoke chaser, which is basically just a fast way of getting to a fire, and a tanker. They mostly deal with vegetation fires. Richard reckons it’s around three-quarters vegetation and a quarter car accidents and medical. They could do with two to four more volunteers (available during the day). “Daytime call-outs can be a problem at times ...” Why do it? “A sense of duty I suppose. You do it to help people and I guess you hope someone else would do the same for you. “It’s the old story about the storm at the beach and it blows a whole lot of starfish

Mt Somers Rural Fire Force station. out of the water. A guy comes along and starts picking them up and throwing them back into the water one by one. Somebody comes up beside him and says ‘what are you doing that for? Isn’t that a bit of a waste of time?’ and the guys replies ‘Well, it made a difference for that one starfish’. “If everybody does their bit it’ll make a difference. And I think that’s the thing for volunteers, it isn’t easy being a volunteer, but if everybody does their bit it’s not going to


be such a big deal.” One of the big things that Richard remembers well from his 24 years with the force is the Mt Somers fire. “It was a big fire in the Mt Somers riverbed. It’s probably the biggest on record for Mid Canterbury. “There were something like 100 people fighting that fire, at least, and probably about eight to 10 aircraft.” He was one of the first at the scene. It burned out about 8km down the river.

“We came in at the very top of it, so you really didn’t have any idea of how big it was. “Basically what happens is, when you get fires running along the ground, they go really slowly. “But then at a certain point the wind picks it all up and gets it into the tree tops and that’s how it gets blown along. “Within about two hours, helicopters were buzzing around and they could see very quickly what was happening “and then you got a whole different picture of how big the fire was”, Richard said. In the first instance, you’re just dealing with what you can see around you. Richard would like to thank the businesses that let their workers go do their bit for the community and the Mid South Canterbury Rural Fire Authority. “They’re great. We’re thankful that we’re part of them. That works really good.”

Lauriston Rural Fire Force

Thanks to all our fantastic volunteers in the Mid Canterbury region. P 03 308 9039 F 03 308 6300 W

Lauriston’s deputy rural fire force controller and training officer Charlie Tomlin says there’s no doubt about it, volunteers do what they do for the benefit of their community. Most call-outs would be vegetation fires, and Charlie reckons it would be 80 per cent vegetation fires and 20 per cent everything else … roughly. “Having said that it’s probably only in the past year that we’ve started doing MVAs (motor vehicle accidents) and medicals and that sort of thing.” Averaging around 30 to 35 call-outs a year, Lauriston operates with about 17 or 18 fully-trained volunteers. Charlie wants to give a really big thank you to volunteers’ families. “It can be very disruptive to family members … time and that sort of thing. “We’re available 24/7 if we’re in the area and it is a bit of a drag on the members’ families.” And it can also be disruptive to any business owners

that allow their employees to leave their businesses and go and attend the calls. “So thank you to them and also to the businesses’ clients for understanding why their job isn’t finished on time because the member’s taken off to assist somebody else in need.” There are definitely benefits for members though – training and the skills you learn or achieve over the years. “There are a lot of benefits to being a member, you do a lot of training and you learn a lot of practical jobs. There is on-the-job training and behind-the-scenes training.” So why do they do it? Charlie said that for him personally and, he believes, for most of the volunteers, it’s “to assist our local community, with whatever disaster or assistance they might require. If someone wants a hand, we want to be able to help if we can. “We do respond for medicals, cause we carry a defib. The whole unit has basic first aid training.”

Lauriston Fire Force members. Lauriston has two members who have given 50-plus years of service. One is John Leonard, who is still an active member, and was a founding member of the local station. Des Syme, who started with Alford Forest, and then came to Lauriston, has done 50plus years for the Ashburton District Council, which was in charge of the local rural fire forces until merging with


South Canterbury. Charlie, who has been with Lauriston for about five years and 30-plus with Rakaia before that, said it is like being in one big family and “we try and be as social as we can”. The team has had a small 4WD unit for about six or seven years, built for the Australian outback, which allows them to get to places other vehicles might not.

Charlie Tomlin lTd

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Charlie Tomlin Ltd Mobile:

Charlie Tomlin Ltd Mobile:

027 4 CHARLIE 027 4 242 754

027 4 CHARLIE 027 4 242 754





Saturday, April 15, 2017

Ashburton Guardian




The Alford Forest Rural Fire Force hard at work in chilly conditions. Sandy Payne started with the Alford Forest Rural Fire Force in 1995 when he moved to the district. It was a sub-unit of Mt Somers and in those days they had a little single-axle trailer, which was housed at the Alford Forest Store, until a little garage was built in 1998 to hold it. There were only four other volunteers when Sandy joined and he’s the only one left in the unit now. “But the whole five of us went through until eight years ago.” In 2013 it was registered as a standalone fire force and they got a secondhand double-cab appliance. Last year the unit started going to road crashes and attending medicals and they got a defibrillator for the truck. The Methven Lions gave a lot of the money for that. A couple of years ago they got a new shed and before that the tanker was housed on Sandy’s farm. He stood down from being chief a year and a half ago. “I stood down to deputy and then stepped down as deputy and put young Nathan Currie in. Nathan’s very motivated. Graeme Smith and Nathan are basically sharing the chief job.”

There are 22 volunteers, many of them new and mostly locals. “They have to do their unit standards before we’re allowed to put them on the fire ground, which is probably a good thing. But we have got a lot of members who have only been there two to five years.” Alford Forest is between Mt Somers and Methven and the force’s area ranges from Ashburton Staveley Road to Methven Highway, follows Barkers Road through to the Rakaia River and then it goes up the Rakaia River to Hut Stream. “So it’s quite a big area we’ve got.” Sandy still goes out on callouts — of which Alford Forest gets about 25 a year — but he also looks after all the plant, trucks and stuff like that. In 2005 Sandy bought a tanker for the unit and any money that was generated from that, like it being used for DOC fires, which were paid for, Sandy donated all the money that came back from those fires into the unit to help keep it going. “We used that until 2013 when Don (Geddes) got us that appliance.” “We’ve got an ex-Fire Service appliance and a 6500-li-

tre tanker, formerly of Methven. “We got their old cab and chassis and I built the tank and deck and everything up in the workshop here and set it all up for them.” And that tanker did seven days at the recent Port Hills fire. It was run over there by Nathan. “We swapped crews around, but Nathan stayed there most of the time and did all the running of it (the tanker), he did head home at nights, but he’d be back there early the next morning with a new crew. He did a fantastic job. He organised everything ... he’s a great organiser,” Sandy said. “Some people say you’re mad for the hours you put in (to the volunteer fire force),” but at the end of the day, they’re just a bunch of good people who want to put the time and effort in to help keep their community safe. “You just do it to help people. If you can save someone’s shed or shelterbelt, you get a buzz out of it at the end of the day. “And once you get into it, you sort of get hooked on it. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, when the pager goes off, you just take off to deal with it.”


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Sandy wants to say a huge thank you to deputy principal rural fire officer Don Geddes. “All the units now have good gear and good stations all because of Geddes. He’s done a fantastic job over the years and we really appreciate what Geddes has done for us. He’s been a fantastic boss for the 20-odd years that I’ve dealt with him,” Sandy said. “There’s no way that the rural fire force in Mid Canterbury would be the way it is now if it wasn’t for him. The ratepayers have paid for it, but he has been the driving force behind all this stuff that we’ve got.” So here’s a message for Don: “Grumpy says you’re a real good bastard and has really enjoyed working with you over the past 20-odd years.” Another mention from Sandy (AKA Grumpy) is for Dan Simmons, one of the originals with Sandy. “He’s done quite a lot on recruitment drives when we’ve wanted new members, going and talking to people. He’s done a great job too.” And, of course, a massive thanks to all the volunteers and their families for their hard work and dedication to helping people in their community.

Phone: 03 308 9324 Mobile: 027 43444 63 Email:

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Feature - Our Volunteer Firefighters  
Feature - Our Volunteer Firefighters