NZFS Rank : Deputy Chief Fire Officer (DCFO)
Date of Joining : 2001
Brigade : Kawakawa Volunteer Fire Brigade
I joined the Kawakawa Volunteer Fire Brigade in 2001 at the tender age of 42, and have been in the NZFS for 13 years. When TAPS was introduced way back when, our station hooked into it and I was able to progress through the ranks without too much difficulty. I have been our Deputy Chief for the past 10 years.
We have 22 members in our brigade, this includes 5 operational support plus 3 recruits. Eleven of our members are women making up half of our brigade. It is not unusual for an appliance to roll out the door manned only by women, and I think that is quite cool. Our numbers are down at the moment and we are actively seeking new recruits to boost our membership back up to the 30 capacity we should have. We have 3 new recruit who have joined in the past 3 months and we are currently all working to train them well and get them through their TAPS course ready for the 7 day RFF course in the new year.
I have been the Brigade Training Officer (BTO) for the past while and have just recently handed that role over to our station officer. We have members working towards SFF, QFF and RFF stages and we utilise the experienced members to help train everyone moving through TAPS.
I am a teacher at the Bay of Islands College here in Kawakawa and also a Deputy Principal so when the alarm goes up during school time I have to check my daily schedule and make an important call about leaving school. Sometimes this is not possible and it is a real concern when I cannot go. I love being a volunteer fire fighter, I enjoy the camaraderie of our brigade, we are a very tight unit and very supportive of each other. This support also extends out to other brigades in our regional and I enjoy going to Honours events in our area to maintain that link with those brigades and their members.
The photo shows me wearing the Northland Fire Brigades Sub Association Presidents chain in 2012. I thoroughly enjoyed the 4 years I served on the committee. I was also the first woman in its 68 year history to be voted onto the executive committee so that was also very special.
There are a lot of volunteer women fire fighters here in Northland, and we regularly meet up with each other at events and functions, so it would be great for others to write their wee stories for the WFENZ website wouldn’t it, it’s a great thing we do, isn’t it.
NZFS Rank : Senior Firefighter (SFF)
Date of Joining : 1996
Brigade : West Auckland (Reliever)
Before I joined the Fire Service, I led an itinerant lifestyle. I had worked in a lot of different jobs and moved around a lot. Most of the work I did was quite physical. I had worked contract fruit picking, as a deckhand on fishing boats and as a ‘rousie’ in shearing gangs to name a few.
I eventually ended up in Auckland, after four years travelling overseas. I did a lot of volunteer community work and applied to join the Fire Service in 1996. By then I was 34 and a single parent with an 18 month old child.
That was 20 years ago. I have worked my entire career in West Auckland and still enjoy going to work everyday. I have developed a huge range of skills and have had some incredible experiences. No two days are ever the same, there is always something new to learn. The Fire Service provides an emergency response to everything the Police and Ambulance don’t do, as well as providing assistance to both those agencies as well. Other duties include all the non-emergency work we do, education on school visits, installing smoke alarms, area and building visits for pre-incident planning, fire risk management, water testing, heaps of on the job training, equipment maintenance; the list goes on and on.
The job is interesting, challenging, diverse and satisfying.
Being a parent and working shifts has meant constantly balancing work and family. I was incredibly lucky to be able to form a network of amazing friends, colleagues and family who helped me out with childcare, especially on the night shifts. Although I had to be mindful that my child was away from home for the same hours I was, when she started school I was able to pick her up and drop her off. I knew who her friends and teachers were, I was able to go on school trips and camp and she was able to do a number of extracurricular activities, that would not have been possible had I worked business hours 5 days a week.
I have been involved with WFENZ since before our first official meeting in 2001, when it was called New Zealand Fire Service Women. I am a huge advocate of networking, especially for women working in isolation. Talking to other women who do the same job is an empowering experience and cannot be overrated.
Ordinary people, extraordinary job.
NZFS Rank : Senior Firefighter (SFF)
Date of Joining : 2008
Brigade : Palmerston North
Before becoming a Firefighter I worked at the Wellington Zoo where I managed both staff and animals. I enjoy the outdoors and being physically active. I am an endurance athlete and have competed in the Speights Coast to Coast, the Ironman and various other adventure racing events.
I was interested in applying to become a Career Firefighter because I was looking for a new challenge and the role of a Firefighter ticked all the boxes. I enjoy being part of a team, working in the community, it is physically challenging and provides ongoing training
Unfortunately I did not know anyone in the Fire Service when I first applied and did not have the opportunity to attend a Recruitment Open Day. The only source of information was the Fire Service website, which provided all the information I needed. There is a video of the physical pre-entry test on the website so I trained for this at the gym and simulated the scenarios using weights. I also put weights in a back pack while I was training to simulate the weight of the Breathing Apparatus cylinder which you have to wear.
Although I passed the physical test without having done it before, I would definitely recommend attending an Open Day. There are some techniques the trainers will teach you to make it easier. For example, when running out the hose reel you need to keep your body weight low and forward to maintain momentum. Raising the ladder can also be tricky if you don’t get the right grip on the rope.
At the physical testing day I met a Firefighter who had been in for two years. She told me all about her experience in the job and gave me some advice on what to expect at the PAC (Practical Assessment Course) Day.
The Pac Day was challenging but I did enjoy it. This is your opportunity to show how well you work in a team, handle some of the equipment, communicate, work at heights and in confined spaces. One work station that is difficult to prepare for is the Confined Spaces. Dressed in fire fighting gear and deprived of your vision (you wear a blacked out mask) you are lead into a heated room (roughly the same temperature as a sauna) where you will follow a rope along ramps, through tunnels, up and down ladders and through confined spaces. And to add to the mix, the Instructor will be putting pressure on you as well. Remain calm and collected and all will go well!
The 12 week recruit training course went really quickly. We were looked after at the hotel and all our needs catered for. You have you own room which is cleaned every day, your bed is made, all your meals are catered for, you don’t have to do the dishes, mow the lawns or feed the cat!
I have to say that I enjoyed living with the rest of the recruits as we all got along and had some good laughs at the end of each day. It is actually probably more difficult for the partners at home than the recruits. Phone cards are provided to help you keep in touch so you can ring home most days.
The training was challenging but as long as you are physically prepared nothing is unachievable. Probably the most physically and mentally demanding part of the course is BA (Breathing Apparatus) week.
As far as being a female recruit goes, the thought that I might be treated any differently to the rest of the recruits never crossed my mind. And this was the case. We had our own changing room and that was as far as it went.
Now that I am on station, the same applies. I love the job. I work with a great team of people which makes life easy for me. Everyone I have worked with has been happy to teach my everything I need to know and want to know.
Best job in the world!
NZFS Rank : Chief Fire Officer (CFO)
Date of Joining : 7/7/1988
Brigade : Murapara Volunteer Fire Brigade
You could say I have been in the Brigade longer than 20years, as I can remember going to the station as a little girl to Xmas parties, games days, movie nights and helping Mum and Dad clean the station when he was on duty.
When I first joined the Fire Service in 1988, it was one of the proudest moments of my Dad’s life, as he was a fireman up until 1980. My older brother Herbert Maki followed suit, joining in 1989, followed by my younger brother Mathew Maki. Mathew rose to the rank of DCFO before resigning in 1999. My partner Ronald Rogers joined in 1993, as did my sister in-laws: Marie Te Kaawa as operational support in 1999, and Geraldine Delamere-Maki as an operation firefighter in 2000, Last but not least my Mum, Hine Maki, joined as an operational support member in 2003. Currently two of my daughters are also in the Brigade.
After pressure from the CFO at the time, Mum was forced to shift to an operational role. My Mum passed all her screenings, and by this time I held the rank of CFO and signed her up for her phase 1 course, which she passed, and made us all proud, as she was the oldest on the course. From what I was told she had done much better than the younger ones on the course. At the time she did this she was the tender age of 61 years old. So you can see my whole family has been and gone from the Fire Service.
I am in a de-facto relationship with partner Ronald Rogers. We have four children, Tracy, Chelsea, Trian-Kathleen, and Jenny. We also have a granddaughter, Te Whai Manawa.
I joined St Johns in 2003, serving until 2005. I am currently working in the hospitality industry at the Murapara Hotel. At one stage we had four firefighters working at the hotel – so it is good we had a good boss. We would often argue whose turn it was to go to a fire call – I would pull rank and say “Well I’m off as there might not be an Officer in Charge”, but this was only if there was something major.
Note: In 2014 Maera was awarded the Pride of New Zealand Award in the Emergency Services section.
NZFS Rank : Senior Station Officer (SSO)
Date of Joining : July 2001
Brigade : Onehanga
I grew up in Hawkes Bay, moving to the big smoke in 1996 to follow the rugby dream – being a postie paid the bills, but rugby was my “career” for 17 years. The attraction of the Fire Service was definitely the team dynamic. The variety of work, and the work place environment. (I’m not a fan of being cooped up inside all day!).
What keeps me motivated in the job is the ongoing opportunities for personal development, working with so many different and interesting personalities, the challenges and rewards you get from each day. Besides the personal rewards, my fire service job lets me have a positive influence on people in the community to keep themselves and loved ones safe – this is also really satisfying.
I developed my leadership style through the experience gained as Vice-Captain/Captain playing for the Blackferns (women’s rugby). I guess I played enough rugby for this to happen as I have ended up being one of the most experienced players in Blackferns history with a career spanning from 1994 to 2006 winning three World Cup titles and being named player of the year in 1995.
I currently work out of the Otara Fire Station in the Counties Manukau District in South Auckland and am a member of the National Recruiting Team. I am actively involved with the WFENZ group, and am a board member of Women in Firefighting Australasia (WAFA). In both instances I am enjoying the opportunity to in define and shape the role of fire services by promoting the expectations of and contribution by women to the sector.
NZFS Rank : Operation Support (OFF)
Date of Joining : 2000
Brigade : Te Aroha Volunteer Fire Brigade
“What the hell do you want to do that for, it’s all men.” That was the response I got from my Mum when I said I was joining the local Fire Brigade in 2000. Fortunately her thoughts have changed!
My New Years’ resolution in 2000 was to do something that challenged me – I had just turned 29 and time was running out! I had been involved with the Girl Guide Association for 20 years and needed something new to try.
I was born and bred in Te Aroha so knew most of the boys in the Te Aroha Brigade.
I joined the Te Aroha Volunteer Fire Brigade in their 100th year. The boys joked that they had gone for 100 years without a female and now look what’s happened!! They are a fantastic group of guys though and I’m very proud to be part of the team.
At the time I joined I was the first and only female (there are now two of us) but being female doesn’t make a scrap of difference. As far as I’m concerned I’m just one of the boys and that’s how I’ve always wanted to be treated.
I had only been in the Brigade about six months when I took on the Secretary job. I was also involved in Crash Rescue competitions for about 8 years. I have attended a couple of overseas events and undertook the Scoring Managers position for the World & Australian Competitions held in Hamilton in 2005 and a couple of the UFBA National competitions.
My partner, Jacko, used to be our SSO but has now transferred to a neighbouring Brigade because of where we are now living. I have no children – just three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who go manic every time the pager goes.
In my other life I am the Health & Safety/Quality Manager for the Matamata-Piako District Council and enjoy photography. I also own a Spyder motorcycle (fire engine red of course!) and am a member of the Red Knights International Firefighters Motorcycle Club.
I have no long term plans in the NZFS and don’t have any desire to climb the ranks. I’m happy doing what I can, being part of the team and doing something to help my community.
NZFS Rank : Communicator
Date of Joining : 2010
Brigade : Northern Communication Centre, Auckland
Talofa lava! I previously worked in Real Estate as a PA and Administrator. I joined the Northern Communication Centre in 2010 and was attracted to the Fire Service because I really wanted to make a difference to people’s lives.
I like how it prepares me in ways to take on new and greater challenges and responsibility. We have a great sense of cohesion in the Communication Centre and while we are our own individual’s characters, we work well as a team.Being fluent in my Samoan language has been a huge advantage in the workplace as it can easily build that cultural gap and immediately I am the voice of calm and assurance during an emergency call.
Finding balance with work and family is never simple or easy. I am very lucky to have the support of my husband and his family. When our children came into the picture my husband and I quickly learnt to forward plan and delegate. We have managed to find that balance that gives us the pride in a job well done, both at work and at home.
NZFS Rank : Operation Support
Date of Joining : 2011
Brigade : Maungaturoto Volunteer Fire Brigade
My name is May Seager and I am a brigade support volunteer for the Maungaturoto Volunteer Fire Brigade.
My roles are Firewise Educator and the person responsible for installing smoke alarms. This suits me nicely as my skills are in communication and I have good links in the community.
I was approached by our former chief a few years ago to see if I would be interested in picking up some of this non-operational work because the operational firefighters didn’t really have the time.At the time I had just finished four years of coaching and leading a soccer club so the work with children was something I could easily do. The smoke alarms was a little different but I just had to refresh my information (it helps having a husband who’s a former firefigher). He is my 2IC on these visits as we are required to have a second person with us – it’s our way of getting time together in our busy lives and keeping up with our community.
I take the Firewise programmes into the four primary schools and two of the childhood centres. At face value it probably seems like a pretty cruisy role but it is becoming more and more challenging now that I am working part-time, mainly out of town. However, I love working with the children and I find that these roles are a very positive way of being involved with the fire brigade and utilising my skills for the benefit of a community that I carely deeply for after having lived here 20 years.
I have only been involved with the brigade for the past four years. You might wonder why, at 50 years of age, I hadn’t joined earlier. My main reason is that my husband is an ex-police officer and used to be in the volunteer fire brigade too. I felt that one parent in the emergency services was enough – after all, someone has to stay at home and look after the kids!! And with four children, it was more practical for me to give more of a supportive role. It is nice now though to be able to contribute in this way to my community and I enjoy the camaraderie of the brigade members. Although I don’t mix a lot with them at trainings, I really appreciate the dynamics of working in a mainly male field. In my past and present occupations, I have mixed most of the time with women, so I find this to be refreshingly different, if not a bit challenging at times.
As a women of Pacific Island descent, I feel it’s really important for people to see that the Fire Service caters for all our people of Aotearoa. When our children especially, see someone like me, with frizzy hair and a smiley face, in a role of mana and responsibility, it provides them with a positive role model and shows them that anyone can be whatever they want to be.