Frequently Asked Questions
Plimmerton is a coastal town approximately 30km north of Wellington (New Zealand's capital city). We have several neighbouring fire brigades, and we assist each other in dealing with major emergencies. Our fire district stretches from the Paremata road and rail bridges in the south to the northern side of Pukerua Bay.
What sort of emergencies are you called to?
One of the most common misconceptions about the New Zealand Fire Service is that all we do is fight fires. These days, fire accounts for less than half of all callouts nationwide. Plimmerton VFB is no exception. Our district includes a notorious stretch of State Highway One. We attend many serious accidents here, sadly often involving serious injury and death. We also turn out to medical calls with Wellington Free Ambulance to provide first-on-the-scene life support (several of our members are trained as 'medical first responders'), and to many other types of emergencies including flooding, sinking boats & general rescue.
We do still get fires, of course, though fully engulfed housefires are rather uncommon (we credit this to improved safety features in electrical appliances, better house design, the widespread use of smoke detectors... and good luck). We are kept in practice dealing with smaller fires in buildings, scrub fires, vehicle fires, gas leaks, illegal and dangerous fires on our beaches, and assisting other brigades with major incidents in their districts.
What is a "volunteer" fire brigade?
Quite simply, our firefighters are not paid anything. We train on weekends and evenings, and turn out from home or work by car to the station when an emergency is reported to our Wellington communications centre (usually by the '111' system). We all carry pagers to alert us, which are supplemented by the station siren (pagers have proved a little unreliable in Plimmerton's hilly terrain).
Once alerted, we wait at the station until enough firefighters are present for us to turn out (usually between four and six, including an officer and a driver/pump operator). Most of the time our fire appliance ("Plimmerton 351") is on the way to the emergency with a full crew, dressed in full protective clothing, within four minutes of the original "111" call - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We are proud of this achievement, and of the service we provide to the Plimmerton community.
Who are the firefighters?
We are a mixed assortment of local people, including electricians, builders, computer engineers, a documentary film maker, and many others. We were originally drawn to the brigade by various things, most often friendships or family connections with other firefighters. We have each made a commitment to be available to attend emergencies, and to train on an at-least weekly basis to maintain our skills.
Several of our firefighters have many years of service, including four serving "Gold Star" medal recipients (25 years).
How are you organised?
New members enter as probationary firefighters, then may be elected to full membership by the whole brigade, after completing their initial intensive training (Basic Skills, and Breathing Apparatus, seven days collectively). Through training and experience, they can move through to Grade Five (or 'Senior Firefighter'). After more experience at this level they are eligible to be elected as a Fire Officer, who is in charge at emergencies (and forms a part of every crew). There are about five elected officers in the brigade at any one time. Two of them are appointed Chief Fire Officer and Deputy Chief Fire Officer by the Awapawa Regional Commander.
Who funds the brigade?
Since the Fire Service was nationalised in 1975, our running costs have been the responsibility of the New Zealand Fire Service, which is funded by levies on insurance policies, administered by the government. We are grateful for the support we have enjoyed over the years from community organisations for specific projects such as our generator.
What equipment do you have?
We have one fire truck, a 1988 diesel-powered, manual transmission International. It carries: 1350 litres of watera Rosenbauer pump and two high-pressure hose reels hose in 3 diameters (45, 70 and 90mm)two 'forestry pack' hose backpacksfoam producing equipmentfour Breathing Apparatus sets ('BA')two ladderstoolschemical-resistant 'splash suits'high-grade rescue lines (ropes)electrical generator and lighting planta large collection of maps and guidesa 'co-responder' medical kitand a variety of other items As you can imagine, this makes for a very full and very heavy truck!
All equipment is on a regular testing and maintenence schedule, as is the truck itself.
Is it dangerous to be a firefighter?
New Zealand has one of the safest fire services in the world. Safety is a major part of our training, and is the first responsibility of all staff at emergency scenes. Though there have been a number of very close calls around the country, no firefighters have been killed on duty in this country for several years.
No firefighters have been killed in our brigade's 74 year history, and the injuries our firefighters have suffered have been relatively minor.