Volunteers fired up by variety

01:20, Jul 02 2009
VALIANT VOLUNTEERS: Station officer Allan Officer, left, and fire police constable Ian Batterbee.

Laying road cones, directing traffic and calming crowds are among the many duties volunteer members of the Auckland Fire Police Unit face, while also holding down fulltime jobs.

An independent unit with 60 volunteers, it provides support to the Fire Service.

Unit deputy chief Glenn Teal says the team helps with significant fires in buildings, motor vehicle accidents where people may be trapped, and non-fire emergencies such as traffic direction or crowd control.

"It is about how to get a crowd to co-operate with public relations and diplomacy, there’s a finesse about it."

Volunteer Awareness Week runs from Sunday to June 20, encouraging first-time volunteers to try something new.

"I have been involved for 30 years. I joined as a university student," says Mr Teal.

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"My father was a volunteer for 43 years so the natural thing was to join the volunteer fire brigade."

Mr Teal says the job has been a great interest and a hobby.

He says there are two areas to the work – community services and a more formal role when they are called out.

The crew also operates a canteen that provides refreshments to firefighters on a lengthy job.

Station officer Allan Officer has been in the job 25 years and is a fulltime accountant.

He says one memorable incident was a large chemical factory fire in 1984.

"There was so much impact on the firefighters and premises. It was a long job."

Fire police constable Ian Batterbee is a network engineer and says there is a large variety of skills in the unit.

He recalls attending the large coolstore fire in Penrose last year which required firefighters to work in shifts, returning home to sleep in between.

Auckland city chief fire officer Brian Edwards says the unit is a useful facility, being able to provide a mobile office.

Staff undergo formal training and the unit receives about 550 calls a year.

Mr Teal says it was initially prompted by a large fire in downtown Auckland in 1933, which the navy attended and the then chief fire officer decided a crew of support people was needed.

For volunteer opportunities go to www.volunteernow.org.nz.

Auckland City Harbour News