Wanted: babysitters to free up mums to fight fires

The Waikouaiti fire brigade wants to offer babysitting for its firefighters, like Katrina Hurst,...
The Waikouaiti fire brigade wants to offer babysitting for its firefighters, like Katrina Hurst, here holding son Charlie (4 months). Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Along with recruiting new members, the Waikouaiti Fire Brigade has its sights set on a different kind of volunteer - "honorary grandparents".

Chief Fire Officer Anthony Nally said the station needed firefighters who were available during the day, and was keen to offer a babysitting service to help those with children.

The volunteer brigade needed "at least a couple" of new members "to allow people to retire".

"We've got a couple of members who want to retire, but are very reluctant to do so because it would put the community in jeopardy. Our only option is usually young mums or fathers, who are at home during the day.

That causes the issue of 'if a fire siren goes during the day, what do you do'?

"If they [the children] need minding, that means someone else has to be available at short notice," he said.

In the past, the station had emergency childcare arrangements in place, and he had been talking to firefighters with young families about what would be suitable for them.

Options included recruiting some "honorary grandparents", who would respond to fire calls and care for children at the station.

An area with toys and activities could be set aside, which was common in other small-town fire stations.

Another option was to work with the town's early childcare centre and have children dropped there during an emergency, but that carried a risk of exceeding the centre's licence limit.

While the situation was not critical, the lack of firefighters available during the day was affecting the station's performance.

Its "performance indicator chart" showed "our response during the day is not as good as it should be", which was common in rural stations, Mr Nally said.

Anyone under the age of 45, with a reasonable level of fitness and eyesight, and who was available for fire calls during the day and training on Wednesday nights, was welcome to apply to join the brigade.

- ellie.constantine@odt.co.nz


Add a Comment