As a steady stream of rain soaked into the land, a gathering of firefighting personnel blessed the spot set to house the new Lake Ōkareka Fire Station.

It marked the end of a four-year planning project and the beginning of a new journey for the station, which will be the first of its kind, with state of the art equipment.

The current station is a wooden shed missing bathroom and kitchen facilities which chief fire officer Phil Muldoon says is just the beginning.

"When we train in here and we have 10 guys we can't all fit in the office so we have to stand outside," Muldoon said.

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"And we have to pull the trucks out for when we get changed to go to a call out. It is not a safe structure."

Although the Ōkareka brigade is only 10 minutes from central Rotorua, Muldoon said 10 minutes is a long time when a fire starts just outside Rotorua, making the brigade's existence necessary.

An artist's impression of the new Ōkareka Fire Station, which is expected to open next year. Image / Supplied
An artist's impression of the new Ōkareka Fire Station, which is expected to open next year. Image / Supplied

In 2017 when Fire and Emergency formed, the Government set its agenda to address the "rural fire gap" and board chairman Paul Swain said it was not long before the Ōkareka station was identified as a priority.

"The people here are not going to know themselves."

Big enough for three different trucks and an all-purpose training room are just some of the luxuries the 384sq m station will offer.

"There is also a decontamination area so you don't contaminate the rest of your station when you come back and washrooms so there is no chucking gear in with the washing machine at home, because that is not really on any more.

"And exhaust extractors so when the truck goes out is it not belching stuff as it goes out the door."

Fire and Emergency New Zealand board chair Paul Swain getting dirty at the turning of the sod. Photo / Supplied
Fire and Emergency New Zealand board chair Paul Swain getting dirty at the turning of the sod. Photo / Supplied

Scheduled to be fully operational by the end of 2020, the station is part of a major programme to rebuild, upgrade and relocate fire stations across the country.

When it asked what the expected cost is, the Rotorua Daily Post was told it was commercially sensitive although a considerable investment for the community.

The station is made up of roughly 28 volunteers and while only a quarter of them could attend the blessing, Swain thanked them for their dedication.

"Their job is mainly to make sure that our communities are safe, protected and there in times of need.

"There is going to be a bigger emphasis on vegetation fires and floods [due to climate change]. We have to be prepared for these new things coming at us and this new station will be well placed to do that."

Lake Ōkareka incident attendance
Structure fires: 8
Vegetation fires: 24
Other fires: 10
Heat/pressure incidents: 1
Medical: 2
Special service calls: 1
Public assistance: 2
Vehicle accident: 5
False alarm: 3
Total incidents: 56
- May 1, 2018 to April 30, 2019