Fires don't take the holidays off

SONIA BEAL
Last updated 08:08 26/12/2013
Firefighters
Hard work: Firefighters take a break from tackling hot spots the day after a large bush fire at Port Underwood in the Marlborough Sounds this week.
Larence Randall
Hot and tired: Waihopai volunteer firefighters Lawrence Randall and Shane Poner-West
Fire
Steep, hot work
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Cooling the fire fighters and damping down the hot spots
fire
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firefighter
A dangerous job

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Whether it's 3am, Christmas Day, or a son's 10th birthday, firefighters sacrifice their time and put their life on the line when it comes to battling blazes.

About 30 rural firefighters received a callout to a fire that gutted a bach and five outbuildings on a property in Flagg Bay, at Port Underwood in the Marlborough Sounds on Saturday.

Crews from Picton, Rarangi, Koromiko and Blenheim responded. One firefighter suffered bruised ribs after he fell and one suffered smoke inhalation.

Picton chief fire officer Wayne Wytenburg said families played a huge part in supporting the work firefighters did for the community.

If a fire such as the one on Saturday happened on Christmas Day, rural firefighters throughout Marlborough would be pulled away from family at a moment's notice, Mr Wytenburg said.

"I've been at family functions where I've often had to up and go and I won't be seen for a couple of days," he said.

Support from families and partners often went unacknowledged.

"For the fire at the weekend, my wife and her friends got together to prepare meals for us. We got hot food delivered to us on-site."

Firefighters faced rugged, steep terrain at the weekend, but this was not unusual for Marlborough.

Firefighters in the region had to deal with unusual situations that included the port, state highways and the remoteness of the Sounds, Mr Wytenburg said.

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There was a "huge difference" between rural and urban fires. Urban fires were usually structural, confined to buildings, whereas rural fires could happen in remote areas on undulating terrain.

While the call of duty involved a lot of commitment and risk, it was worthwhile, he said.

"For the people in my brigade, it's about giving back to the community, comradeship and getting to meet people."

Someone from outside the district who joined the service would be welcomed with open arms, he said. "It's like a brotherhood, or a sisterhood."

- The Marlborough Express

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