A dedicated Far North volunteer fire brigade is about to move out of shipping containers into a purpose-built station thanks to a cash injection from the Government's Covid recovery fund.
Cavalli Fire Brigade is based at the top of Matauri Bay hill where the volunteers have been using a pair of containers as a makeshift fire station.
The precious little comfort the firefighters had was reduced still further in April when some lowlife stole their portaloo.
The volunteers' days of making do will soon be over, however, thanks to a $2.16 million grant announced by Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones during a visit to Kaikohe on Monday.
Construction of the single-bay fire station is due to start this year.
The cash will come from the Government's $50 billion Covid Response and Recovery Fund, of which $3b is earmarked for infrastructure projects.
Cavalli fire chief Peter Cullen said his crew was ''over the moon''.
''It's been a long road. We started this project about eight years ago when we got the crew up and going again.''
Originally the brigade was based in a barn loaned by a local landowner; two years ago Fire and Emergency NZ leased a piece of land across the road and installed the containers as a temporary measure.
''It's really difficult trying to operate out of the containers. They're all right to keep us dry but they aren't good for meetings. They're cold in winter and stinking hot in summer with no windows or air flow,'' Cullen said.
The brigade's business support volunteer, Wiki Todd, said a proper station was ''definitely overdue''.
''It's a betterment for the whole community, considering we're so isolated out here. It's awesome,'' she said.
Rural firefighter Erica Turner hoped having a station would encourage more people to join the brigade while senior firefighter Paul Todd said it would lift community spirit.
With one truck and about 13 members, Cavalli Fire Brigade — formerly Cavalli Rural Fire Party — covers an area of 100sq km and attended about 30 callouts, mostly vegetation fires, last year.
Northland principal rural fire officer Myles Taylor said the brigade had a ''very dedicated'' core of volunteers.
''It's really neat to have this opportunity to put them into a facility befitting the importance of their role. It will be quite a relief for them to get into a purpose-built facility and it will lift morale, especially in winter. It can be quite cold training in those shipping containers.''
Taylor said the new station would be a just reward for the volunteers' dedication and patience.
Also announced on Monday was a $700,000 grant to upgrade Ōkaihau fire station, which is not particularly old but is too small for an increasingly busy brigade.
The grant will pay for new ablution facilities with a decontamination area, showers and locker room.
It will allow firefighters returning from callouts to remove protective equipment safely and avoid bringing carcinogens from smoke into other areas of the station.
Ōkaihau fire chief Andrew Graham said planning for the fire station extension started at least three years ago.
''It will be far safer for us. It will give us more room around the truck and a wash area for dirty gear that's away from the rest of the station. I told some of the crew on Monday night, they were pretty excited.''
The Ōkaihau brigade, which covers 650sq km, has about 22 members and one fire truck. Last year the volunteers attended more than 120 incidents, including car crashes, vegetation fires and medical emergencies.
Jones said he was delighted the funding would support a crucial community service, while also creating work and economic stimulation when Northland needed it.
Cavalli Rural Fire Force was founded in 1998 after a house fire at Matauri Bay the previous year claimed the lives of three young children.