Northland school students become volunteer firefighters

By Mikaela Collins

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Kamo High School students John Wallace and Sean Hay, both 17, are the newest, and youngest, members of the Kamo Volunteer Fire Brigade. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
Kamo High School students John Wallace and Sean Hay, both 17, are the newest, and youngest, members of the Kamo Volunteer Fire Brigade. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

Sean Hay and John Wallace could be in the middle of a maths class one minute and fighting a fire the next.

The Kamo High School 17-year old students are the youngest, and newest, members of the Kamo Volunteer Fire Brigade, having recently become qualified volunteer firefighters.

But having the titles 'student' and 'firefighter' means juggling the two, and their principal has allowed them to leave school for callouts.

"We've been called out a couple of times per week. There was one week where I didn't spend any days at school," said Sean.

The pair have spent the last six months learning the skills required to do the job.

On Monday nights - after football training - they attended training sessions at the brigade, they have studied theory books, completed a two-day first aid course and a one week training session in Mt Wellington, Auckland.

"My school work suffered a little bit but I passed school. Sean got merit endorsements and all that sort of thing but we passed," said John.

Sean Hay and John Wallace, both 17, could be doing maths one minute and fighting fires the next. PHOTO/JOHN STONE
Sean Hay and John Wallace, both 17, could be doing maths one minute and fighting fires the next. PHOTO/JOHN STONE

During training the pair learnt various skills but one of the most challenging aspects was using the breathing apparatus (BA).

"In Mt Wellington . . . they put us through this BA training building. It's this pitch black room which they turned up to 40C and it's like a big jungle gym in there. I kind of freaked out," said John.

Sean said it was his dad, a firefighter at the Whangarei Fire Service, who inspired him to become a volunteer. John was encouraged by Sean.

"Sean was like 'come up and see what it's like' and I thought 'yeah, I like it'. It's good fun and it helps out with the community," said John.

The duo have attended a few jobs since becoming volunteers including a car fire they were called to after midnight last week. Their mates think they are mad.

"They think we're nuts. They don't really understand why we would get up at 3am to come and save a cat but, I mean, someone's got to do it, what if it was their cat?," said John.

Colin Thompson, chief fire officer at the Kamo Volunteer Fire Brigade, said because of their age they don't take them to anything too traumatic and if they do they ensure their job is away from the trauma.

He said quite a few students had come through the brigade.

"It gives them life skills and we get guys going on to Navy and the Air Force, and the school is right behind us."

When asked if they wanted to pursue the job professionally, Sean said he is deciding between that and joining the Navy while John said he might in the future.

- Northern Advocate

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