A volunteer firefighter can make a huge difference to the worst day of someone's life.

Marton Fire Brigade Station Officer Kevin Darling, himself a volunteer, says the role is not just about fighting fires.

"It can be something really small like holding someone's hand at an incident. When that siren goes off, someone is having the worst day of their life, whether it's a car crash or a medical incident. It's just making people feel there's someone there for them at that time," Darling says.

Marton currently has about 25 operational firefighters, five operational support members and one administrator but they are looking for more volunteers and have an information evening on January 10 for interested people.


"We're a fairly busy brigade by volunteer standards," Darling said.

"We attend 220 to 250 calls a year. They are a mixture of fires, motor vehicle accidents, medical events where we assist St John and natural disasters such as flooding, strong winds and power lines down.

"We have a broad range of roles. The operational firefighters are the people who wear breathing apparatus and fight fire with hoses.

"The operational support people aren't trained to, or don't want to, wear breathing apparatus but want to help on the fire ground. So they help on things like traffic control, getting equipment to the operational firefighters and organising water. It's a very important role.

"We have one brigade administration person at present and it's a very valuable role.

"There's a lot of computer work and paperwork to do so having someone with skills in that area has been a real godsend.

"We're willing to talk to anyone who is interested to see where their skills lie."

There was also a possibility of a role for someone to do home fire safety visits and education work.


Marton's current volunteers bring a diverse range of skills to the brigade.

Darling has a corporate management background. He lives in Bulls but his work as a company manager in Marton means he is available to attend daytime callouts in Marton. He volunteers for the Bulls brigade as well and is available there outside work hours.

"We have two career firefighters and one Defence Force firefighter who volunteer for us because they want to contribute to their community. We have a number of people who work as truck drivers and one couple who volunteer. They can cover the days and nights between them."

Some people were apprehensive about how much time would be required as a volunteer firefighter but there was less time involved than most expected, Darling said.

"Most calls we get are under an hour so from getting in my car, getting on the truck, doing what needs to be done and being back at my desk it is usually about 45 minutes to an hour," Darling said.

"Multiple-hour incidents, such as vegetation fires, are few and far between."

The volunteers train once a week on Mondays from 7.45pm until 9.30pm-10pm.

There was a huge support network for the volunteers, both within the team and from Fire & Emergency New Zealand (FENZ), Darling said.

"We all keep an eye out for each other and FENZ has support for volunteers and their families. It sounds corny, but it really is like a family. I started at Halcombe and now I'm with Marton and turn out for Bulls in the evenings and I feel I have 'family' in all those brigades.

"You can socialise, learn new things and give back to your community. Most volunteers do it to give back, often because they've been involved in an incident where firefighters have turned out or they know a firefighter."

Operational firefighters need to undergo a medical check, paid for by FENZ, and a police security check. After being accepted and doing some training locally, they must attend a week-long course at the national training centre in Rotorua to attain firefighter status.

After that, individuals can choose whether they want to do further training courses.

"A lot of the skills we learn are transferable across workplaces which is good for employers. We get leadership, problem solving and practical skills."

Marton Fire Brigade's information evening about volunteering with Fire & Emergency New Zealand, and the various roles available, is at Marton Fire Station at 6.30pm on Thursday, January 10. There will be a free light supper.

Anyone who has questions, or is interested but unable to attend Thursday's session, can contact Station Officer Kevin Darling on 027 244 5407 or email kevin.darling@fireandemergency.nz