Brigades' shortage of volunteers continues

The dire shortage of volunteers at the Winton fire brigade has eased, but Southland's head firefighter says more stations are still counting on residents to put their hands up for the task.

Southland area commander Bruce Stubbs said eight people had joined the Winton brigade since The Southland Times reported the shortage earlier this year.

One member who volunteered with the Nightcaps brigade had also joined Winton, where she worked, while another, who lived in Wyndham but worked in Winton, had joined, Mr Stubbs said.

The push for more people to volunteer with the Winton brigade had also had a positive effect in other areas, with extra volunteers signing up in Balfour, Browns, Dipton and Manapouri.

However, other brigades were still struggling to get the numbers they needed, he said.

Te Anau had 22 members but "could do with another four or five easy", while Riverton had 19 volunteers but could do with anoth- er 10.

Colac Bay, Lumsden, Mataura, Mossburn, and Tokanui also needed more volunteers.

Riverton chief fire officer George Seator said the lack of volunteers had been an issue for many years.

"It's got beyond frustrating, in that you can't take it personally any more.

"It's the cards the town has given us and we've got to do the best we can."

Of all the callouts the brigade attended, on about half of them it had fewer than the six volunteers that made up a full crew.

There had been times when only one volunteer had been able to respond to a callout. If that happened during a major incident such as a house fire, crews would have to travel from areas such as Thornbury and Colac Bay, Mr Seator said.

"I guess it's how much does the town wish to keep the service. It's not going to fall over in the next wee while, but with the retirements we've had . . . the service is slowly but continually running down further and further and eventually it's going to be a struggle to get a crew."

Mr Stubbs said encouraging people to become volunteers would remain a focus for Southland.

"It's really just continuing to say, ‘Look, if you want the brigade to be part of the community, people have got to step up'.

"And that was our message for Winton - I can give you trucks, I can give you gear and all of that stuff, but you've got to have people front up."

The Southland Times