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With the recent retirement of several long-standing senior officers, new fire chief Neil Rogan is putting out the call for the able-bodied men and women of Mataura to help serve their community.
‘‘Our optimum amount for a full crew is 31,'' Mr Rogan said.
‘‘We are down to 24, so could definitely do with some new blood.''
Volunteers can start at the age of 16, as long as they have parental consent, but otherwise should be aged 18 or above, able to pass a medical exam and have a clean criminal record. Full training is given at an initial seven-day recruitment course in Invercargill with ongoing training and upskilling provided throughout service.
There was a definite physical aspect to the job, but Mr Rogan stressed that should not be intimidating.
‘‘There are jobs for everybody. You don't have to be superman.
‘‘I'm not such a big guy myself, and we've had women serving before who have been a lot stronger than me.''
Mataura fire station, like many rural services, covers a large area. This means the volunteers are coresponders for any life-threatening emergency and attend many incidents where an actual fire may not be involved, such as traffic accidents. They carry defibrillators and are fully trained in their use and, along with police, are the first on the scene to most emergencies.
Fire service personnel are required to attend two two-hour training evenings and one fire service meeting per month along with being on call for emergencies as required.
In return for this there are many advantages.
‘‘No-one's ever regretted becoming a volunteer firefighter,'' Mr Rogan said.
‘‘The satisfaction of contributing to the community is immense, along with the feeling of personal satisfaction and the camaraderie that we offer.
‘‘The skills are learnt for life, including first aid, rescue, firefighting and heavy traffic licensing.''
Mr Rogan, who first joined as a volunteer firefighter in 1980, said general shifts in society might be responsible for the lack of new recruits.
‘‘We used to have a waiting list, but the population and demographics of Mataura have changed a lot in recent years. A lot of new people have arrived who might not have such a close link with the community.
‘‘We want them to know we are not some impenetrable group that is not open to outsiders, and [they] are most welcome to become involved.''
Story by Grant Bryant