"What happens down the line with Covid is anyone’s guess. For me at the moment, I’m focusing on building a strong team here and future proofing the fire brigade by getting the right people in to get the job done."
top Must Dos
Paddle the Sounds
I’ve been a volunteer with the fire brigade in Marlborough for about 18 years, first with Blenheim and then Renwick when we moved out here 11 years ago.
Last year I was promoted to chief fire officer. It’s a huge job and we’ve been through a lot of changes in the past year or two, but I’m enjoying the challenge and we have such a great team of people here.
Lockdown threw a spanner in the works for everyone, trying to plan crews with people that were at home, available and not already in a bubble at work.
Usually we’ll have a team of five or six attend a call out. But due to physical distancing requirements, we could only fit a team of four in the truck.
It was very quiet during lockdown, there wasn’t much traffic on the roads and most people stayed home instead of out doing silly stuff.
It was a weird feeling for the team to hear the alarm going and not come down. We’re like a big family here, we train together and spend a lot of time here, so to suddenly not be able to respond to a call, went against all of our training.
During lockdown we set up a welfare check in system, with a series of questions for the team to answer every day. The questions were around any symptoms they might have and how they were feeling in general, so we could get a gauge where everyone was at and provide extra support if needed.
A big part of what Fire and Emergency New Zealand has been doing the past couple of years is focussing on mental wellbeing of volunteers.
Feelings were not something that we ever talked about before, so while it felt weird at the beginning, it’s actually been great in terms of enabling us to take charge of our wellbeing and increase our resilience.
Speaking from personal experience I know how important it is to deal with your emotions rather than suppressing them.
We used to just respond to fire call outs, but now fires are only a small part of what we do. We also respond to a lot of car crashes and medical callouts because ambulances are so overloaded.
Now after a callout we have a team debrief, which gives us an opportunity to discuss what went on and process any emotions that may have come up for us. We’ll have follow-up conversations for some callouts, because it can take time for things to process and come out.
What happens down the line with Covid is anyone’s guess. For me at the moment, I’m focussing on building a strong team here and future proofing the fire brigade by getting the right people in to get the job done.
And a huge thanks to Renwick Volunteer Fire Brigade's amazing sponsors: AG Fencing, B.E.L Forestry Ltd, Bryant Earthworks LTD, Department of Conservation, Glen Kai Farms Ltd, Kathy Lynskey Wines, Lift'n'shift Services Limited, Marisco Vineyards, Marlborough Roads, New Zealand Police Newman Excavations Paper House Design, Renwick Transport Ltd, Royal New Zealand Air Force, NZ Defence Force, Waimea Contract Carriers, Woodbourne Fire Flight and Woodbourne Tavern & Motels