No longer on the verge of closure

Community bands together to save fire brigade

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 13:49 14/12/2012
The Ngaruawahia Volunteer Fire Brigade
Bruce Mercer/ Fairfax NZ

GROWING NUMBERS: The Ngaruawahia Volunteer Fire Brigade has gone from the verge of closure to being one the most progressive brigades in the region. Front L-R deputy chief fire officer Darren Hennessy, senior station officer Karl Lapwood and chief fire officer Marty Kampman.

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The Ngaruawahia Fire Brigade has rescued itself from the verge of closure and is now regarded as one of the most progressive brigades in the Waikato.

In 2009 Ngaruawahia fire chief Marty Kampman told the Times he was at 'his ''wit's end'' trying to build brigade numbers which had reached ''dire'' numbers.

But this week more than 30 volunteer fire fighters attended station training in front of a brand new $275,000 operational facility housing a 14,000 litre water tanker donated by Fonterra.

''It's been a real community effort,'' senior station officer Karl Lapwood said. ''We literally knocked on doors around the community and searched for people to help us out,'' he said.

The proactive approach has impressed Waikato area commander Roy Breeze who said the Ngaruawahia brigade not only ''brought themselves up to scratch - they went beyond that''.

''They are now an exceptional example having increased their station capabilities to become an all round emergency service as to how they help their community,'' Mr Breeze said.

The brigade's new building took just five months to construct and is equipped with emergency lighting which Mr Breeze said was crucial as a central base or control centre in case of a major disaster.

''They really are a modern fire service for their community now and I take my hat off to the management team who have driven the change and turned the station around,'' he said.

In return local businesses have supported the service by donating equipment such as lighting and station equipment while the tanker, donated by Fonterra, provides greater fire fighting capacity.

Last week the Ngaruawahia brigade attended a fire at a large cement factory where the tanker proved a crucial fire fighting resource.

''If we didn't have the tanker we would have had to run 250m hoses across State Highway 1 which would have closed the road, but the tanker provided the water we needed right there on site,'' he said.

During weekdays Mr Lapwood volunteers for the Huntly Fire Brigade where his joinery business is based, but he turns out for Ngaruawahia when based at his home in Horotiu.

''There are a few others in the same position, Matt [Alphors] is a paid officer in Auckland, but he also volunteers here in Ngaruawahia on his days off.''

Other volunteers include a motel owner, district council workers, electricians, railway workers, ACC staff and engineers - with an age range of 18 to late 50s.

Chief fire officer Marty Kampman said that the new resources, equipment and growth in numbers had led to a welcome boost in morale.

''It's fantastic,'' he said ''From where we were 18 months to go to now - it's been an excellent transformation.''

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- Waikato

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