Fire siren calls babysitters to duty

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014
Kingston Easson, Boston Easson and Talia Raines
NICOLE GOURLEY/ Fairfax NZ

Riverton Volunteer Fire Brigade babysitters Mary Jenkins and Paula Watson keep an eye on firefighter's children Kingston Easson, 1, Boston Easson, 3, and Talia Raines, 5.

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Two South Island women have found a unique way to help their local volunteer fire brigade - when the siren sounds they look after the firefighters' children.

Mary Jenkins and Paula Watson are not firefighters, but their contribution to the brigade at Riverton, 30 kilometres west of Invercargill, is just as important.

When the siren sounds in the rural town it can be heard by the entire community. The volunteer firefighters drop what they are doing, and so do Jenkins and Watson.

The pair race down to the fire station to look after any children belonging to the responding volunteers.

"I don't think we do anything special," Jenkins said.

Riverton chief fire officer Helen Bull said without the help of Jenkins and Watson it would be much harder than it already was for the volunteer brigade.

"Riverton and other rural brigades do struggle to get volunteers, so by having Mary and Paula offering their time to look after any children, parents can join the force," Bull said.

"As a volunteer with my oldest child, I heard the siren go off but could not make the engine," she said.

That changed when she could leave her children in the safe care of someone at the station.

New Zealand Fire Service Southland area manager Bruce Stubbs said the success of the Riverton initiative had been taken to national headquarters and was met with enthusiasm.

Upper South Island region Fire Service commander Brendan Nally said it was rewriting its policies to allow for the hiring of people for support roles like child care, to remove barriers to female participation.

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- The Press

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