Brigade seeks members with drive

Clyde Volunteer Fire Brigade's newest member Chloe Dowling  would like more members to join her. Photo by Sarah Marquet.
Clyde Volunteer Fire Brigade's newest member Chloe Dowling would like more members to join her. Photo by Sarah Marquet.

When members of the Clyde Volunteer Fire Brigade gathered at their station recently to respond to a call, they found themselves in an embarrassing situation.

Though they had managed to scrape together enough members to turn out a truck, none of the four were qualified to drive it.

Fortunately the call was to assist a man who had fallen and broken his leg at the Clyde Dam and the Alexandra volunteer brigade was able to attend.

Clyde Chief Fire Officer Richard Davidson said daytime volunteers were hard to come by, as many of the small town's residents worked out of town.

Though they have 17 people in the brigade, for a weekday daytime callout usually just three or four people could respond, and sometimes as few as two. That includes Cromwell Deputy Chief Fire Officer Neil Gillespie, who works at the Clyde Dam.

Mr Davidson said while it was great to have Mr Gillespie as a backup, his work and Central Otago District Council commitments often meant he also was not in Clyde during the day.

Orchard worker Chloe Dowling (22) is the brigade's newest recruit. While she lives in Letts Gully, much closer to Alexandra than Clyde, she works in Earnscleugh.

Knowing of the volunteer shortage and because of her place of work, she decided to join the Clyde brigade rather than the Alexandra one.

Though she admitted to not being so confident at first, she was increasingly enjoying it.

"There was a bit of self-doubt; you think 'Oh I can't do that,' but you just keep at it. The brigade is pretty supportive and though I'm a female, they don't treat me any differently."

In her almost two years with the brigade, she has been to about 10 callouts, including a kitchen fire at a fellow brigade member's house.

Running into a burning building is not the bit that scares her; it is the heat.

She is also "sick of being the newbie".

Both she and Mr Davidson said they would love some new members, especially ones who were available during the week.

They said it did not even necessarily have to be someone willing to fight fires but someone who could stay at the station in a caregiver role if there were others who wanted to join but had children.

Miss Dowling was involved in the recent incident when the volunteers were unable to attend the callout at the Clyde Dam.

"We turned up but we didn't have a driver. It was embarrassing."

New Zealand Fire Service Central and North Otago area manager Keith McIntosh said Clyde's problem was not unique.

"What tends to happen in smaller towns throughout New Zealand is that people go to work in larger adjacent centres."

However, he said brigades within his patch were generally not too bad in turning out full crews when needed.

sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz