Swannanoa fire brigade reaches 1000 milestone


Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Peter Anderson holds one of the 75...
Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Brigade chief fire officer Peter Anderson holds one of the 75 commemorative coins minted by the brigade to mark their 1000th call-out. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE
The Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Brigade has reached its 1000th call-out in just 11 years. To mark the milestone the brigade’s chief fire officer Peter Anderson says 75 commemorative coins have been minted and will be given to past and present members of the brigade.

‘‘We will find all the people and brigade members who have helped us along the way and present them with the coin.’’

The brigade reached the 1000th callout early on the morning of December 6, 2023.

‘‘We passed a significant milestone in our short history when our pagers woke us up for a car fire at the Eyreton Community hall.’’

Mr Anderson says in the early days, the team would be called out around 30 times a year, however over the last five to six years this has grown to well over 120 times, day or night each year.

‘‘Today the brigade boasts a modern fleet of Fire and Emergency NZ (FENZ) vehicles and 26 women and men from the local community, however, none of this would be possible without the foresight of our early members who saw the need to form a local brigade back in 2010.’’

‘‘To those and all past members, the current team are proud of what your ideas and efforts have transformed the brigade into.’’

He says none of this would be possible without the support of families who ‘‘carry the fort’’ when volunteers head out to help those who need them in their community.

To thank everyone and hand out some of the coins, Mr Anderson says the brigade held a small dinner recently attended by the Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon.

Mr Gordon says the brigade planned a celebration with neighbouring brigades, family and special guests but the fires on the Port Hills and Waikari Valley took priority.

Recognising the tired firefighters around the region who have been battling these blazes, themselves included, the Swannanoa brigade instead opted for a quiet barbecue at the station.

FENZ Canterbury district commander Dave Stackhouse says between 2014 and 2022, the Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Brigade received between 63 to 126 calls per year, averaging 96 per year during that time.

In 2023 120 call-outs were recorded and by the end of January the brigade had already attended 21 call-outs.

‘‘As rural brigades go, they are busy. Nationally, they have ranked second busiest in the last five years (2019 to 2023) with an annual average of 113 incidents.

‘‘More than 40 per cent of incidents they respond to are vegetation fires, 20% are miscellaneous fires (including car fires) and 20% are false alarms. Only 4%are medical emergencies.’’

He attributes this to high growth in the Swannanoa response area, with more housing being built. Most other Canterbury rural stations have maintained a steady number of call-outs in the last 10 years.

FENZ always looked at brigade response zones to identify what additional training or resources might be required by the brigade, Mr Stackhouse says.

The Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Brigade is now in its third location and has recently had a new smoke-chaser, tanker and a rural medium appliance provided by FENZ.

In 2024, Mr Stackhouse says the appliance will be replaced with a new rural medium appliance fitted with breathing apparatus to assist crew when attending car and external structure fires. The next milestone for the brigade will be to have its own fire station, as its home at present is temporary.