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NZ Firefighters Amongst World’s Highest Number Of Unpaid Firefighters

NZ firefighters amongst world’s highest number of unpaid firefighters saving lives, property and the nation $659 million per year

The 11,500 New Zealanders serving in voluntary brigades throughout the country are amongst the highest number of unpaid firefighters per capita in the world.

Speaking at the start of National Volunteer Week, Bill Butzbach, Chief Executive of the United Fire Brigades’ Association (UFBA), today marked the start of National Volunteer Week saying these largely unsung heroes saved New Zealand $659 million per year.

“When you look at the statistics, it really becomes clear how much New Zealand relies on the expertise, commitment and dedication of these men and women who are responsible for the protection of land and property for over 90 per cent of our country’s landmass,” said Butzbach.

“Many people are unaware that volunteers receive the same high level of training of their almost 1,800 salaried colleagues, and, such is their reach, will usually arrive at an event within 10 minutes of a call in urban areas of New Zealand.

“This responsiveness is increasingly important as almost 70 per cent of these are not fire-related but are actually accident or medical emergencies, and we expect this number to only increase.

“It is these volunteers who respond to 66% of crashes on our roads, 60% of medical call outs, 50% of rescue calls and 68% of vegetation fires.”

To celebrate firefighter volunteers across the nation, the UFBA is encouraging all New Zealanders to give a ‘thumbs-up’ and say “Cheers Volunteers!.”

The UFBA has put together a social media video featuring fire brigade volunteer Dame Lynda Topp of the Topp Twins, and international firefighting experts from Britain and the US, amongst others. The video can be viewed here.

“As a volunteer firefighter of over 12 years, and having worked with volunteers for another 32 years as a career firefighter and commander, I know the impacts on family time and work.

“I’ve seen horrific things and I’ve seen incredible acts of courage and teamwork,” Bill Butzbach said.

“Our brigades are made up of many individuals each contributing in their own way through either emergency response or behind the scenes running of the brigade.

“Knowing how integral to the community’s safety is its own reward and the bonds that are formed last a lifetime.

“I’d encourage the public to acknowledge the sacrifices made by brigades, their families and their employers.”

Notes for editors

The service provided by Fire and Emergency is made up of around 13,500 brigade members, 85% of which are volunteers. While we are thankful to all firefighters this week – career and volunteer - we need to give special thanks to those who come to our rescue alongside their other busy day jobs, on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That’s a massive 1.9 million hours of time given each year equivalent to $659 million the taxpayers would need to cover to retain the same level of protection.

Volunteers represent the best of community spirit

Whether it’s raging wildfires, flooding and storm damage, car crashes, or burning buildings, 90% of occasions will see a expertly-trained and capable volunteer firefighter coming to the rescue. As the most responsive of all emergency services they generally respond within around 10 minutes.

All New Zealanders are invited to say ‘Cheers Volunteers’ and add your voice to thanking these dedicated people, their families and employers, so that we never take those keeping us safe for granted.

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