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Russell Firefighters Have Helped in Rarotonga

Russell Firefighters Helping in Rarotonga

Russell firefighters have helped fight fires in Rarotonga by an unusual initiative recently. A surplus fire engine, stacked full of firefighting apparel and equipment, is now on its way to Rarotonga to be used by residents of Arorangi Village. Until now the local airport had the only fire brigade – and airport duties took precedence.

The project was an initiative of Russell residents Rex Cooper and Matt Mataroa who hails from Rarotonga. Both men are in the local fire brigade and they were in Rarotonga and asked by the Arorangi villagers how they could establish their own brigade.

Returning home, and with the support of the Northern Regional Manager of the Fire Service they won the approval for the Russell Brigade to act as the host brigade, sponsoring Arorangi.

"Then it was a matter of approaching other fire units," said Rex, who has been with the NZ Fire Service for 40 years. "We were looking for donations of equipment and protective clothing surplus to requirements. And we had a great response."

Last year a 1976 Hino Fire Appliance became available in Palmerston North and Rotary groups showed a willingness to be involved. They held meetings with the Kaikohe and BOI Rotary and grants were received to assist with overhauling the machine and its maintenance.

"Reef Shipping offered to take the appliance and any equipment free of charge to Rarotonga," said Matt. "That was a great offer!"

Pacey Trucks in Otahuhu serviced the vehicle before delivery to the coastal freighter. All in all four Rotary groups had contributed and volunteer firefighters from Hikurangi, Kaikohe, Paihia, Russell and Whangarei had donated surplus equipment.

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If all goes well Rex and Matt will be in Rarotonga when the ship arrives.

"We’re both spending four weeks back on the island, working with local volunteers," added Matt, who has been active in the local brigade for three years. "By that time we hope to have the crew trained and ready to act in case of fire."

While they have gathered all of the equipment through their own dedication, the men are still looking for donations of funding for support and training materials. Anyone wishing to contribute can contact Rex on 09 403 7118 or 025 754 213.

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