Chance to learn valuable skills

SAM MORTON
Last updated 13:11 20/04/2011
Firefighting
Admirable understanding: Blenheim volunteer firefighter Nigel Botham, left, often leaves work at Wadsco Motor World with his employer Wayne Young's understanding.

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NIGEL BOTHAM (Employee)

Does the big whirring of Blenheim's fire siren annoy you when it sounds? Spare a thought for the 39 men and women who make up the Blenheim Volunteer Fire Brigade and respond to every single call day or night.

No-one can predict when the siren is about to blast, but rest assured when it does, these firefighters will be at the station more quickly than you can cook crayfish on toast and in the truck faster than an 800-metre athlete.

Firestone tyre manager Nigel Botham, of Wadsco Motorworld, Blenheim, has been in the brigade for almost nine years and has attended some major fires and road crashes in his time.

The station officer was introduced to the fire brigade through a close friend, but admits it didn't take much persuasion to get him on board.

"It's always something I've had an interest in and wanted to do, so when the opportunity to be part of it presented itself at an ideal time in my life, I grabbed it.

"It's definitely something I am proud to be involved with and haven't looked back since."

Mr Botham is grateful to his wife and two children for their "never-ending" support.

"They're 100 per cent behind me, and my wife understands the time and commitment needed to be a volunteer firefighter.

"Sometimes it's not always easy, but we work through obstacles and keep the communication channels flowing. She always knows when I'm out on a call."

Family and work come before firefighting, but with the support and encouragement of both, Mr Botham feels he can keep all three as his top priorities.

"If we can't go to a callout because of work or family, then we simply don't and won't.

"But it helps with good time management, and I've mastered juggling my commitments over time."

He is pleased to see more young people taking an interest in the brigade, but he believes for the first few months more pressure is placed on the senior firefighters.

"Don't get me wrong. It's bloody great to see these young guys coming in, but it takes a bit to gain the experience and competence in all tasks, and it's like anything – it all comes with time."

The brigade trains every Monday and is constantly sending firefighters on courses to upskill, he says.

The volunteers complete the same training as career firefighters and never have to reach for their wallet. "Being in the brigade is very rewarding – and the skills I have picked up along the way, not just on the job, but life skills in general, have been invaluable.

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"I wouldn't change any of it – it's been a buzz."

WAYNE YOUNG (Employer)

'We all realise it could be any one of us or our family who need the fire brigade," says Wadsco Motorworld director Wayne Young when asked why he lets his worker go to callouts.

Mr Young allows his employee, Nigel Botham, to leave work at the drop of a hat at the sound of the town's fire siren.

He understands Mr Botham's duty with the fire brigade and believes it brings "good karma" to the workplace.

"We see a fair bit of the carnage happening on the roads in our garages here, so I guess all of us and Nigel's colleagues have a real appreciation for the work the fire brigade do."

Mr Young employs 40 staff members in Blenheim and said he was in a fortunate position for Mr Botham to flee work and do his thing.

"His co-workers know that if he gets called away, they have to suck up a bit of fat.

"That's just the way it is and we've had volunteers on call working for us in the past, so it's nothing new for most of them."

He admits losing Mr Botham from the workplace can at times be inconvenient, and recalls a humorous moment last year.

"We had to laugh. There we are, letting Nigel go and fight fires, and do the whole courageous fireman stance, and then we find out he was called out to rescue a cat.

"Ironically, the cat he rescued was called Nigel too, so we call him 'puss-puss' around here, and it's a name that will stick to him like glue for quite some time."

Mr Botham said he didn't expect anything in return from the fire service for his support, but he has enjoyed some benefits from it by default.

"Nigel adds to the team as a qualified first-aid person, and the brigade has been in to educate us on operating fire extinguishers and basic fire safety.

"It's small things like that which are appreciated, but really it's a job that has to be done and we are proud that one of our team members is part of such a respected organisation."

- The Marlborough Express

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