A champion triathlete, former rugby league star and a "cow cocky" are among the 21 firefighter recruits who graduated from Fire and Emergency’s National Training Centre (NTC) today.
A graduation ceremony for recruits and their families was held at the NTC in Rotorua, with the firefighters presented with their new yellow operational helmets to replace their green trainee helmets.
The firefighters also performed a number of exercises involving different firefighting scenarios, displaying skills they have learned at the course over the past three months.
The top recruit award went to 32-year-old Gemma Franklin, from Christchurch. Gemma is a former personal trainer, massage therapist and talented multisport athlete, having competed in several Ironman and marathon events.
Gemma clearly has the emergency services in her blood, with her twin sister a police officer and brother a first responder for St John, while her partner works as a nurse in a hospital emergency department.
But it was the physicality of being a firefighter which appealed to Gemma, who particularly enjoyed the urban search and rescue and motor vehicle accident extraction components of the training.
She’s looking forward to "just getting into it" when she returns to her home town to join Christchurch City Fire Brigade.
Another new firefighter is dairy farmer turned townie Carey Duggan. Carey, 35, has spent the past 15 years on the farm in Taranaki, but the father of three decided it was time to "give back".
He has enjoyed the family atmosphere of the course while training to be a firefighter, and anticipates being a firefighter will be "100 per cent something different every day".
He’s looking forward to the educative role firefighters play in helping the community learn about fire safety and will bring a "can do" attitude to the job when he begins his career with New Plymouth Fire Brigade. He’s just not so keen on city traffic and having to iron his shirts every day!
Olly Blanchett had already "dipped his toe in the water", having spent a period as an air force firefighter based at Ohakea Air Base. But his interest was initially piqued doing a safety and survival course while working on super yachts overseas.
The firefighting element of the course "ticked all the boxes" for what he eventually wanted to do when he returned home to settle down.
The 28-year-old also brings a community service outlook to the role, having worked for a year in a refugee processing centre in Nauru which he describes as a humbling and inspiring experience.
He says he will relish the variety of being a firefighter based in an urban environment, when he starts as a firefighter at Newtown Fire Station in Wellington.
Australian Shane Campbell first got the bug to become a firefighter as a six-year-old while growing up in rural New South Wales.
He joined the local volunteer fire force at 16, and served for 10 years before working as a firefighter for the local state forestry service.
Prior to that he had worked in office environments but all the while knowing firefighting was his dream job. "I was happy to do it anywhere in Australia or New Zealand."
Shane got a sense of the strong family atmosphere at Fire and Emergency at his interview, and that was confirmed during the recruits’ course.
He is looking forward to turning up each day to a job where he’s "loving what I’m doing", along with helping deliver the Firewise school fire safety programme when he’s based at Invercargill Fire Station.
Former New Zealand Warriors star fullback Wade McKinnon was also among the graduating recruits.
During his playing days in the NRL, Wade had always thought about becoming a firefighter once he retired from rugby league.
Like all his colleagues, he says he was attracted to the career because it always involves helping people, whether it is at a medical emergency or putting up smoke alarms in someone’s home.
The current group of graduates represent an increasingly diverse range of people who want to become career firefighters.
They range in age from 20 years old to 41, include four women, three Maori, and six people from countries other than New Zealand. More and more women are choosing firefighting as a career option, with about 15 per cent of recent course participants being women.
Also in attendance at the graduation event were representatives of local iwi Te Arawa, Fire and Emergency board member Wendie Harvey, Deputy Chief Executive People Brendan Nally and Deputy Chief Executive Service Delivery Kerry Gregory, and NZ Police Bay of Plenty District Prevention Manager, Inspector Steve Bullock.
The 21 firefighter graduates will be deployed to the following Fire and Emergency areas:
Whangarei-Kaipara - 1
Auckland City - 2
Counties-Manukau - 1
Waikato - 1
Bay of Plenty Coast - 1
Central Lakes - 1
Taranaki - 1
Tairawhiti - 2
Wellington - 5
Christchurch Metro - 3
East Otago - 2
Southland - 1
About becoming a career firefighter
Prospective career firefighters are encouraged to attend an information and practice day before embarking on the application process. These days provide information on what the job entails and the physical requirements. These are held throughout the country prior to the two application windows, which are in February and July each year. They also provide an indication on what training may need to be undertaken to pass the physical test during the recruitment process. After applying to become a firefighter, shortlisted applicants will undergo a range of tests and assessments, including a cognitive test, psychometric assessment, physical test, and practical assessment. Applicants will also need to undertake a formal interview. Each step of the process needs to be successfully negotiated to progress to the next stage. Successful applicants will then undergo a 12-week residential training course at the National Training Centre in Rotorua. There are four recruit courses held throughout the year, with up to 24 trainees in each.
For more information on the firefighter recruitment process and the areas of the country where there are vacancies, go to https://fireandemergency.nz/work-for-us/the-recruitment-process/