The Herald is this week profiling some of our emergency service heroes who have hidden talents or other jobs.

A love for helping people and the longing for a job beyond the office were two factors that lead Ross Bay into his chosen vocations.

As a young man he began his working career in banking, but soon jumped ship and followed his Anglican roots into theological education at St John's College.

It was during his training for ordained ministry that Bay decided to embrace his inner child and join the volunteer fire service.


"I was a little boy that never grew up," Bay said. "I grew up in Papatoetoe where in those days there was still a volunteer fire brigade and I had always wondered if it was something I might do.

"By the time I got to the age where I could volunteer I found out about this organisation that is now called Auckland Operational Support which is the brigade that I belong to."

Almost three decades later, Bay has a myriad of volunteer hours under his belt and has worked in various parishes around Auckland.

He has also served as the dean of the Holy Trinity Cathedral and has been the Anglican Bishop of Auckland for the past seven years.

As Bishop, Bay is responsible for the oversight of 90 different churches in the Auckland region and providing support and encouragement for the clergy in those parishes.

Despite his devotion to the ministry, he still manages to make time to respond to emergency calls for the fire brigade.

Ross Bay says his fire service work acts as a grounding to the realities of life. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Ross Bay says his fire service work acts as a grounding to the realities of life. Photo / Brett Phibbs

"It gets harder and harder the more responsibility I take on but I normally get to about 70-80 calls a year, so I am out more than once a week - mostly in the middle of the night or occasionally on the weekend," he said.

"I still enjoy the aspect of it where you feel like you are putting something useful into your community, but the other side of it is the friends that you make over the years.

"It is the ongoing connections with those friends that holds me there more than anything else. I don't get so excited about the pager going off at 2am on a very cold August morning anymore."

Bay serves as the Deputy Chief Fire Officer of the Auckland Operational Support Brigade, a second-tier fire service that provides support for firefighters at the scene.

"It is not strictly a firefighting brigade so we are not normally putting water on flames, but we are doing every peripheral thing around the scene that allows fire fighters to concentrate on their job.

"A lot of it is around scene safety, supporting the specialist units, running a mobile kitchen truck, managing cordons or supporting victims."

Bay said his theological training helps with the emotional side of emergency service work, while his fire service work acts as a grounding to the realities of life.

"One of the challenges of being a paid worker in the church is that it becomes very easy to get immersed into the life of the church and not necessarily meet or see any other people.

"People sometimes say that the church isn't the real world, but I believe to some extent that no world is the real world if it is your only world.

"I think it is really good no matter what you do, to have another aspect to your life that reminds you that your world is not the only world, so firefighting has been really good for me personally," he said.

"One of the good things about the volunteer fire brigade is it draws together people from all walks of life and you are interacting with a really wide spectrum of people in terms of cultures, ethnicities, personal working life and family situation. I really like that."