Every one of Northland's 42 fire stations is throwing open its doors this evening to a bid to connect with locals and drum up more volunteer support.
The fire stations will be open from 5pm to 7pm, with firefighters on hand to meet the public, show what they do and explain the roles available to new volunteers.
Rural fire bases will also welcome in the public — in Kaikohe both the Clifford St fire station and the rural fire headquarters on Recreation Rd will open their doors — while in Whangārei visitors will be directed to the operational support unit on Mansfield Tce, behind the main fire station.
Wipari Henwood, the Far North's top firefighter, said like many volunteer organisations around New Zealand, Fire and Emergency NZ had seen a steady decline in volunteer numbers over the years.
The aim of tonight's event was to lift engagement with the community and let people know volunteering wasn't limited to fighting fires.
Frontline firefighters needed a high standard of fitness but brigades needed all sorts of people in roles such as secretaries, treasurers and educators to visit schools and install smoke alarms.
They also needed operational support personnel who helped with everything from first aid to traffic control and running out hoses.
''So there's plenty of things anyone can do. If you're interested we've got a job for you,'' Henwood said.
Rawhiti Rural Fire Force, east of Russell, is one of the 42 brigades holding an open night — although with work about to begin on a new station, their event will take place at Te Rawhiti Marae.
Fire chief Rana Rewha said he had been a volunteer for 30 years after making a commitment to help his community, many of whom — like the other volunteers — were family.
''It's in my blood now. I get a lot of enjoyment just from helping people,'' he said.
One of the rewards was the camaraderie with other volunteers, who were like a big family across the North.
Henwood said brigades were looking for men and women who were at least 16 years old. Around Northland a number of volunteers were in Years 12 and 13 at school.
In particular fire brigades were keen to recruit people who were available during working hours when the shortage of volunteers was most acute.
''Call-outs during the day are tough on volunteers and their employers. As a consequence we have a lot of issues manning appliances during weekdays.''
Wipari said individual brigades had held open nights in the past but this was the first Northland-wide event.
''We're hoping to see everybody there,'' he said.
Northland has 42 fire stations from Tinopai in the south to Pukenui in the north. Only Whangārei central is staffed by full-time paid firefighters.
Northland firefighters are called to about 4500 incidents per year.