Busiest year ever for brigade

Fires like this one at SealesWinslow at the beginning of December, kept the Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade busy in 2017.

Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade members are summoning new recruits hot on the heels of their busiest year ever last year.

The brigade had 465 callouts in 2017, which is about 10 callouts more than its last busiest year, which was about five years ago.

Callouts have consistently numbered well over 400 for at least the past seven years, indicative of a brigade which just keeps getting busier as the region’s population grows and puts pressure on emergency services. The brigade has recently taken on an additional six firefighters, who will begin in the New Year.

The intake will boost the number to 36, the highest ever for the brigade. It represents a 20 per cent increase from the current level of 30.

Fire service management have yet to sign off on final details, such as confirming medicals, and will not be announcing the names of the firefighters for a couple of weeks.

However, Ashburton chief Alan Burgess was able to provide some details. He says one was female, which would take the female contingent of the brigade up to two, and one was coming here from another brigade in Otago.

Among selection criteria had been availability to respond to daytime calls, as pressure comes on firefighters to drop tools at work in order to respond to the town’s high number of callouts.

Supportive employers were paramount to this, and the brigade could not operate without them, Burgess says.

Burgess was confident of the brigade continuing to meet demand in the face of increasing calls, however, he did not think the increase last year was large, or that calls would necessarily increase year on year.

“It think it just becomes a little bit of business as usual, even though it’s a record high number, it’s not significantly higher than we are used to in the last few years,” he says.

“I guess the disappointing part about it, it’s an increase, whatever way you look at it. Hopefully we get a bit of a downturn this year,” he says.

Burgess was pleased to be welcoming the new recruits, and they would ensure the brigade was well resourced.

“We are in pretty good shape,” he says.

- Ashburton Guardian


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