Mon, Jun 13, 2022 6:00 AM
Fiona Bryan is a senior firefighter at the Moutere Volunteer Fire Brigade, while her day job is as National Executive Director of the Empowerment Trust.
Fiona says she had always been interested in fire-fighting so one evening in 2012 she popped down to her local fire station on a training night to check it out.
Now Fiona’s children leap out of bed when the siren sounds and have her keys and shoes ready for a quick response, while the community pitches in when Fiona is at a fire by collecting her children from school and helping out however they can.
Several things started Fiona on this journey. She wanted to challenge herself, help her community and be a positive example to her children, which she has achieved in more ways than she could have imagined.
The role and training puts you outside of your comfort zone Fiona says. She laughs when she remembers the brigade chief’s encouragement that “all you have to do is open the station doors and start the truck up” when she questioned if she was up to the challenge
“I thought I was confident and capable, the job and training pushed me physically and mentally but the benefits have been enormous to my life outside FENZ and have helped me believe in myself.” Fiona says, “the job can be very confronting.”
But support from family, the fire crews and formal support from FENZ helps massively, there is always someone shoulder tapping you to check you’re okay.”
The first fire she attended was when the Moutere community centre was ablaze. “I remember looking at it once the fire was out and couldn’t believe I had done it, it was surreal”.
Fiona describes herself as being naturally calm under pressure. She is also drawn to helping with people’s recovery after an incident.
“I have a passion for supporting people through difficult times, this can be challenging but rewarding, it’s important as a community to link people together and access support agencies.”
Darren Crawford, FENZ senior advisor community readiness & recovery says, the support people receive immediately after an incident can really help them on their path to recovery.
“It can be a long journey back to some form of normality for people affected by traumatic events, but early support can make a significant difference and communities seem to invariably step up and help in positive and generous ways.”
Fire and Emergency has a focus on supporting communities to reduce fires and keep people safe from fire and Fiona says volunteer brigades give lots of opportunities for their members to be involved in these activities.
“Not everyone wants to ride fire trucks but there are many important roles like making Home Fire Safety visits and brigades will welcome the help.
“It’s been a real privilege to be able to help when people are in distress. If you are considering helping your community by supporting your local fire brigade, just do it!”
Fiona says she has never regretted calling into the station on that training night ten years ago.
Volunteering with your local fire brigade is a great way to contribute to your community and become part of a team. Fire and Emergency New Zealand is a diverse and inclusive organisation.
At Moutere, a third of the brigade are women.
There are multiple other ways to volunteer without becoming an operational firefighter.
Medical First Responders volunteer only for medical emergencies, Brigade Support volunteers help run the brigade by completing administrative tasks without having to be on the frontlines.
Operational support roles can be a good option for people wanting to be at the incidents supporting firefighters by keeping the public and brigades safe.
If you are interested in volunteering with your local brigade click here to learn more.