Volunteering for community duty

Nigel HowardThe closest Nigel used to get to a real fire was a training exercise at Christchurch City Council. That all changed in 2003 when the library’s technical project manager joined the Diamond Harbour Volunteer Fire Brigade.

In this interview he shares some of the challenges and rewards of his time with the crew.

What motivated you to join the volunteer fire brigade?

It was varied - initially a friend had asked if I would be interested in joining. I thought about it for a while and realised that it was a great way to put something back into the local community as well as keeping fit. There is also the comradeship within the brigade and the opportunity to test your limits.

Have you ever done anything like this before?

No, the closest thing was attending a Christchurch City Council fire extinguisher training course!

I imagine you can end up in some dangerous situations - fires, vehicle accidents and rescues - what sort of training do you need to do?

There is an initial one week basic training course, when you join the brigade. Following that there are additional training courses available for dealing with incidents involving traffic accidents, hazardous chemicals and specific types of fires. Personal safety is always the most important aspect in all the training.

How many people are in your brigade and how many callouts would there be in a year?

There are currently 16 members of the Diamond Harbour Brigade and we average around 55 callouts a year.

What kind of time commitment does being in the brigade involve?

As I mentioned earlier there is an initial week’s basic training when you join the Brigade, where you learn about handling the equipment, real fire training and First Aid. Ongoing, the minimum time would be an evening a week, although in most brigades there is always plenty of additional work that needs to be done.

It sounds like it’s quite hard work - what are the rewards of being a volunteer firefighter?

It can be, but that’s complemented by being a part of a great team and learning new skills. There are also regular social events held by the brigade where members and their families can get together.

What’s the best advice you can give people about fire safety?

Fit smoke alarms and test them regularly, a good reminder is to test it when the clocks change every six months. Make an escape plan with your family. If you discover fire, raise the alarm, get out and call 111. Remember fire doesn’t just happen at home, it can happen anywhere such as in your car, boat or caravan.

For more safety advice visit The Fire Service website.

Fire safety advice:

  • Fit smoke alarms and test them regularly, a good reminder is to test when the clocks change every six months.
  • Make an escape plan with your family.
  • If you discover fire, raise the alarm, get out and call 111.
  • Remember fire doesn’t just happen at home, it can happen anywhere such as in your car, boat or caravan.
  • More fire safety advice
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