I ended up "ambulance chasing" two fire engines over the weekend in South Wairarapa.

In the first instance, I was distracted away from my wife trying on dresses in a shop in Martinborough. You might think that I'd employ any excuse to get out of shopping but, actually, I'm a pretty good shopper. Nonetheless, there's something about a rural fire siren going off that propels you to the street for a look. I grew up in the far North and my father was a volunteer fireman in a town where most of the men were only a few minutes' sprint from the station.

It constantly amazes me how quickly the volunteers can get under way. Seemingly in the space of time it took for me to mumble something complimentary about my wife's latest choice and wander out the store, the Martinborough crew were on their way. I told her I'd be a few minutes (which is husband/wife code for 15 minutes to two hours) and followed in the car.

It turned out to be a false alarm. So too, did a call-out in Featherston that evening and, once again, the fire truck was on its way before I had put the keys in the car.


As an aside, chasing after fire engines can sound a bit vulture-like and truth is we don't do it that often. Despite the expression, we never actually chase ambulances. But you wouldn't be a reporter for a provincial daily (and I do count myself as that) if you didn't get that twitch to chase when an alarm goes off.

But the point I want to make is many times I have wandered after a fire truck, only to find them sedately trundling back towards me, having discovered a false alarm. I've seen them wander into houses, and leisurely come out taking their jackets off because it's a non-event. But it's always taken seriously. These crews are awesome in how quick they respond.

For a low-populated province, we are incredibly well-served. I've said it before, more cakes need to be baked for these crews, and let's not ever miss out on an opportunity to thank them for their service.