Three years ago Karen St George joined the Tauranga volunteer fire brigade - it was one of the best decisions in her life.

"You have to be a little bit crazy to willingly get up at all hours of the night. I have a child who is severely disabled and, for me, this is a way of giving back to the community a little bit," she said.

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"I'd always wanted to join the police force and I thought about the ambulances, then I happened to bump into Jeff three years ago," she said.


Station officer Jeff Francis is behind a recruitment drive for more volunteer firefighters at the Tauranga station. The crew is hosting an open day at Bay Central on Chapel St tomorrow in an effort to attract new blood to the brigade.

In 2017, Tauranga's volunteers attended 331 callouts. Many were fires but more were tragedies on the roads, or at people's homes and businesses.

For St George, helping people confronted with trauma is her calling.

"I've been through a lot of intense situations myself and I think being able to be there for other people in horrific situations actually means a lot to me. I do crisis really well.

"The past 18 years of my life has been crisis and if you can be there for other people ... That's a big part of it for me," she said.

"For the first time in my life, I feel like I actually fit somewhere."

St George suffers from claustrophobia and said the role had pushed "every single boundary in my life".

"But you don't do anything alone. The other guys are there for you. My life depends on them and their lives depend on me. The trust in the brigade has to be strong and is strong."

But the brigade is running thin. People moving away and with other commitments mean the volunteers are looking for new recruits for the first time since 2015.

Francis, who has spent 19 years working as a volunteer firefighter, said giving back to the community "really makes a difference".

"When you go out and do your job, just getting a 'thank you' or a 'well done', just knowing you've helped someone out - that's what makes it for me."

The volunteer brigade operates in support of the paid New Zealand Fire and Emergency Service at Tauranga's station on Cameron Rd. They train every Tuesday night and respond at the drop of a hat should disaster strike.

"It's a big commitment. A lot of people think I'm just going to jump on the truck but they don't understand that it's 24 hours, seven days a week," Francis said.

The Tauranga volunteer fire brigade will be at the Bay Central on Chapel St from 9am to noon on Saturday.

The brigade is also looking for volunteers to help with operational support.

Got what it takes? Volunteer firefighters must:

- Live within 4km of the Tauranga Fire Station

- Pass police and security vetting

- Be of reasonable fitness

- Be available at the drop of a hat when on duty