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26 New Firefighters Join The Crew

A Tall Fern, landscaper, tour guide, aircraft engineer and automotive engineer were among 26 new recruits who graduated as firefighters yesterday (Thursday 24 June) at Fire and Emergency’s National Training Centre in Rotorua.

The new firefighters demonstrated the skills they have learned over their 12 weeks of training to their family and friends, with a range of firefighting scenario exercises. The recruits were then presented with their yellow operational helmets to take back to the fire station - ready to use their new skills to help keep their communities safe.

Ella Fotu, 25, represented New Zealand as a Tall Fern in 2019 and 2020, and had plans to play basketball professionally in Australia but COVID-19 cut those plans short. Instead, Ella listened to the advice of two firefighters she knew who suggested she become one herself.

"Being a firefighter ticked a lot of boxes for me - a physical job, teamwork, helping others and being a positive role model, especially for Pacific girls," says Ella.

"And I feel like I’ve become a builder, a sparky and a mechanic too," says Ella.

"Firefighters don’t just respond to fires. We also respond to medical events, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous substance emergencies, weather events, urban search and rescues and more."

"I’ve learnt a lot over the past three months of training but the best part of the course has definitely been the people. They’re a great bunch here for sure."

Ella will be based at Devonport fire station in Auckland.

Dunedin based Alex Schofield, 39, first thought about becoming a firefighter about ten years ago, but an opportunity came up to move overseas. When he returned to New Zealand after nine years working as an automotive engineer, the desire to become a firefighter hadn’t gone away.

"I wanted to be there for others the way firefighters helped me and my dad when he had a medical event," he says.

"Firefighters were there for me and my family on my worst day, and seeing what they did for us totally changed my perspective on my life. I wanted to that for someone else."

Former aircraft engineer Mark Johnstone, 35, felt the same way after a similar experience when emergency services helped him when he needed it.

"I wanted to do the same and try to make others’ worst days a little bit better," he says.

"I was born and bred in Invercargill so I’m really looking forward to giving back to my community and putting my new skills into action alongside the team at Invercargill Station," says Mark.

Craig de Blecourt, 33, was ready for a new challenge after 14 years as a landscaper.

"Being a firefighter was the perfect fit," he says.

"It allows me to help my community in lots of different ways and aligns with the values my whānau taught me growing up - to always help and give to those in need."

"Besides, who doesn’t want to ride the big red trucks!"

Joining Fire and Emergency has become more than a job to Craig who has made lifelong friendships with the rest of the crew on his recruits’ course.

"We’ve gone from being complete strangers to becoming a family in such a short amount of time," says Craig.

Craig will join Alex and the crew at Dunedin Fire Station.

Sam Sinclair, 28, is more than happy to be back in New Zealand serving his community after travelling and working in Asia and New Zealand as a tour guide.

"COVID-19 gave me the perfect excuse to try something new and meaningful," he says.

"I’ve always wanted a job where I can give back to the community, and being a firefighter seemed like the perfect fit. Not just responding to emergencies, but also engaging with the community and teaching them how to be safe with fire."

Sam will be based at Johnsonville Fire Station in Wellington and encourages anyone thinking of becoming a career firefighter to go for it.

"You’d be stupid not to!"

Anyone wanting to work with a tight-knit team in an active job that is flexible, meaningful and can fit with your lifestyle can apply to be a career firefighter now. Applications are open until 5pm 30 June 2021.

Deployment locations

The 26 firefighter graduates will be deployed to the following areas:

Auckland - 9

Waikato - 2

Wellington - 7

Otago - 4

Southland - 3

Nelson/Tasman - 1

© Scoop Media

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