Paul is the chief of the Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Force. He described how the Fire Force came to be formed. Paul and his family had experienced a fire at their place in Swannanoa which they had had to fight with the help of neighbours. It took over 20 minutes for the regular brigade to arrive by which time they had the fire under control. As a result of this and other fires in the area, Paul and others in the Swannanoa community decided to take a petition for the formation of a volunteer fire force around the community which they did at the school fair. They got very strong support and as a result the Swannanoa Fire Force was formed.
Paul explained the disparity between urban and rural fire forces. Urban brigades are funded from insurance paid by each household. Urban brigades get the bulk of these funds. A much smaller amount goes to rural fire fighting. This has to be supplemented by local councils. For example, the Council provides a water tanker for rural fire fighting which is a substitute for hydrant water available in urban areas. The principal rural fire officer, Tim Sheppard called a meeting of Swannanoa residents and explained the process for forming a force. He said that getting volunteers would be one of the biggest challenges. In fact, Paul said that this had been the least of their problems. They had more than enough volunteers. Their biggest fight was with bureaucracy in trying to get the Fire Force set up.
The Swannanoa Fire Force started off based on a private airfield on Tram Road. They acquired an old trailer from Lees Valley with a pump and hose. They saw an old fire tender on Trademe and acquired it – a1979 Commer which did a great job for the Force. The Force then moved to a shed on the property of a member of the Force on Mandeville Road. A new building is now on the horizon to be located at the corner of Bradleys and Tram Roads.
The Force was given a ‘smoke chaser’ – a four wheel drive Hilux – a small tanker plus hose which has proved ideal for gaining access to difficult sites.
The Force then acquired a 9000 litre tanker – a Hino which provides good volumes of water for fighting fires.
Paul talked about the reasons he and the other volunteers have taken on the challenge of rural fire fighters. It is all about giving something back to the community they live in. The Swannanoa community is great to live in. He described the hours he and the volunteers have to put into their duties. They responded to over 80 calls during the last season and up to the end of February had responded to more than one call a day – a situation made worse by the activities of two arsonists.
The Swannanoa Volunteer Fire Force has 23 members and they have a waiting list from the Swannanoa community of those who would like to join.
The club applauded Paul and the other members of the Force for the contribution they make to the Swannanoa community.