Eastern Courier : February 4th 2010
11 EASTERN COURIER, FEBRUARY 4, 2011 NEWS Kawakawa's own superheroes Community spirit: Rob Willey says he loves helping the people of Kawakawa Bay. Photos: JASON DORDAY At the wheel: There are several courses volunteer firefighters can do to upskill and Rob Willey's done almost all of them. That means he gets to drive the truck. Access all areas: The Kawakawa Bay Volunteer Fire Brigade has one fire truck and attend about 30 call-outs a year. teamwork: The Kawakawa Bay Volunteer Fire Brigade is like a brotherhood and members will do anything to help each other out says Rob Willey. By JESSIE COLQUHOUN By day Rob Willey works at an agricultural business, importing and exporting farm machinery. In his spare time he moonlights as one of society's superheroes. He's a member of the Kawakawa Bay Volunteer Fire Brigade and when the siren howls he transforms from an ordinary citizen to a fire-battling hose wielder. Rob's the kind of man you would would be happy to see in a tricky situation. A volunteer firefighter since 1989 -- I just had my 21st birthday'' -- he's also part of the first response team for St John Ambulance. Serving the 2000 residents of Kawakawa Bay for the past couple of years as a senior firefighter, he was pre- viously with the Beachlands Volunteer Fire Brigade. He and the brigade's other 19 members -- aged 21 to almost 60 -- are all locals. Rob lives around the corner from the station, one of the guys lives across the road and another next door. They're quite lucky cause they're first on the truck,'' he says. He carries a pager and springs into action when it goes off. The procedure is always the same: Arrive at the station; Boots, overalls, jackets, helmets on; Get in the truck, briefing; Then they're off. The first moments are exhilarating'', Rob says. You never know what you're going to. A motor vehicle accident can be a car in a ditch or four or five cars.'' Despite not being paid, brigade members take their job very seriously. When the siren goes off it's usually because someone's called 111. We turn up as the New Zealand Fire Service -- we're professional, we act pro- fessionally and we respond professionally. When we get home we take off our helmets and we're the Kawakawa Bay Fire Brigade.'' Being a life-saver can be demanding and Rob reckons he's lucky to have such a sup- portive and understanding partner. We've been heading out the door to functions or din- ner and the siren's gone off. I've said sorry sweets, this is where I'm going now.''' The number of times he's had to put plans on hold has fallen over the years. The brigade gets about 30 call-outs annually, mostly for car accidents, and Rob -- the fire safety officer -- reckons that's because of increased education. The guys don't like that they're not having so much action,'' he jokes. But it's good for me.'' Two years ago the brigade went to every house in Kawakawa Bay to check it had a working smoke alarm. Rob works with youth groups, educates school kids and writes a fire safety column in the local newslet- ter.The brigade has even come up with a tsunami response plan with Civil Defence -- vital for the waterfront town. That's one thing I really love, just helping the people.'' He's never applied to become a paid firefighter. This way he's got the best of both worlds because he can do a normal day job and still get away from it''. The satisfaction of someone being happy with the job you've done or seeing the per- son you gave first aid to go into an ambulance is what gets him through, Rob says. The 20 members at Kawakawa Bay come from all walks of life but have a sense of brotherhood''. We're all different but when we get to the station we're all the same. It's like a big family, we all look after each other. AttheendofthedayifI was in need I could pick up the phone and I'd have 20 guys here to help out.''
February 2nd 2011
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