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