Hunt on for women firefighters

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Lisa-Marie Ireland, middle, on a  job in rural Martinborough on Friday. Photo / Emily Norman
Lisa-Marie Ireland, middle, on a job in rural Martinborough on Friday. Photo / Emily Norman

Diversity should be a no-brainer, say members of the Martinborough fire brigade who are actively encouraging more women to volunteer.

Martinborough senior firefighter Dean Di Bona said recruiting new volunteers was a nationwide problem and that the stereotypes surrounding the job needed to be broken down.

"What we're saying here in Martinborough is that we need to think further afield," he said.

"We need to be all-inclusive and look at the whole population because it's not a male job. It's firefighter, not fireman."

Mr Di Bona said that when he spoke to women about joining the brigade, they usually said it wasn't a job they ever really considered.

"People always think the service is a man's domain because of heavy lifting and all of that," he said. "But if you actually break down what's done, there's no one fit that will do all the jobs needed.

"If you look at the composition, we're not just lacking women, we're lacking a lot of demographics and I would love to see a push to balance the composition out nationwide.

Lisa-Marie Ireland, who works as an apprentice electrician, has been a volunteer for the Martinborough fire brigade for "close to seven years". She was among the first firefighters to attend a blaze in rural Martinborough on Friday.

"The reason I joined the Martinborough brigade is because I've lived there all my life and I wanted to give something back to the community, so it's quite rewarding in that aspect for me," she said.

"It is sometimes physically and emotionally exhausting but everyone deals with things in different ways."

Miss Ireland said women occasionally had different qualities than men, which could help to create a more balanced team.

"The guys are generally more physical but we tend to be better at calming the families down in an incident and things like that.

"Also, the older ladies prefer seeing us in there so it's not so intimidating for them."

She said she was keen to see more women stepping up to the challenge in Wairarapa.

"I think the girls just get put off mentally before they even give it a go. But if they do give it a go, they'll figure out that it's not all that bad and it's very rewarding.

"Some people are scared of heights so we don't send them up ladders - we sort of work around everyone and their strengths and weaknesses."

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