By RACHEL MACDONALD
Girls can do anything, and Odessa Ellis sums that up.
She is mother to 5-year-old son Kyros; was working as a marketing assistant at Rangiora Mitre 10 before 6-month-old daughter Blake joined the family; and is a volunteer firefighter with the Rangiora brigade.
For three years, she has answered the siren and pager from work and home.
The brigade is recruiting, looking for more members who work locally so they can hit the ground running when the alarm is raised, says Rangiora’s chief fire officer, Hamish Peter.
This campaign is the most extensive it has ever run, and there is a good reason for that, he says. “We put out the call for new members every year, but the population of Rangiora is growing so fast, we really need to look at how we can manage that,” he says.
“We attended 399 calls last year, compared with 300 in 2018. That’s more than one a day, looking after people and property. For that, we need more volunteers.”
Most importantly, he says, those volunteers need to be working in town, so they can be there within minutes when the alarm is raised.
Two employers who are used to working around the flexibility required by fire service volunteers are Ron van Til, of Artisan by Rangiora Bakery, and Robin Brown, of Rangiora New World.
“I feel that local employers actually have a social responsibility to support the fire service,” Ron says. “I have one employee who’s been with us for 18 years, and he’s been with the brigade that long too.
“He plays a really important role in managing our export logistics stream, but we just make sure there’s someone there to fill the gap when he is called out. If it were my house on fire, I’d want him there!”
Robin agrees. “Ever since the supermarket opened in the 80s, we’ve had employees who are members of the volunteer fire brigade. Currently, one of our managers is on the team.
“It can be a bit disruptive, especially when the fires burn for days, as we’ve had on the riverbeds in the past, but it’s essential that we have people employed in town who can be there promptly that we have employers who understand that,” he says.
It takes all kinds to be a firefighter, says Odessa. “I wanted to give back to the community my kids are going to grow up in. Regardless of your age or stage, if you’ve got integrity, commitment, and you want to help, you’re perfect.
“It’s all about being there when things are at their worst; making that difference on that day. If we weren’t there to do it, who would be?”
Hamish urges people to visit the station, meet personnel, and have a look.
“Ask the questions, take a look at the info, and see how you can learn our skill sets and how they can be transferred outside the station.
“We’re developing and supporting future generations in the service, and we’re here to look after them because they are critical to our community.”
An open evening is being held on March 16, from 7pm. To learn more, watch for the brigade’s leaflets and posters.