Three members of the Fire Force took part in the Rotorua Marathon in early May, with two of those three continuing on to compete in the Fire Fighter Sky Tower Stair Climb Challenge along with two other Okareka Fire Force members. This event entails running up the 51 floors of the Auckland Sky Tower (a total of 1103 steps) wearing 25kg of firefighting kit. There are two team categories: Donned where the competitors wear all the gear; and Donned and Started where competitors use the breathing apparatus as they run. The Lake Okareka team was entered in the Donned category as, being rural fire volunteers, we cannot legally enter the other category.
Teams from all around the country, as well as Australia and the United States, compete in the event which supports Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. A massive fundraising drive is undertaken by the teams in the months leading up to the event. The Lake Okareka team raised over $2,000 with a whopping $880,000+ being raised in total from the event.
On the day, the Lake Okareka Fire Force team (Kierin Oppatt, Blair Gilbert, Phil Rennie and myself) achieved some very credible times which saw us win the ‘Donned’ team event nearly a full five minutes ahead of the second-placed team. This was even more credible given that Blair and I were in the ‘Masters’ division – not bad for a couple of ‘old fellas’. Individually, Kierin placed 4th both in the Open (‘younger’) division and overall, with Phil Rennie placing 30th in the Open division. Blair and myself placed 3rd and 6th respectively in the Masters division. With such a fantastic effort by all, the team are all keen to have another crack at this event, so look out next year! For those who are interested, you can check-out the full results on www.firefightersclimb.org.nz.
Another huge achievement is the success of the Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme which provides young people from local secondary schools the opportunity to experience a range of emergency services by participating in training and emergency scenarios over a number of weeks. This programme was initially based on what we do in the Lake Okareka Fire Force in terms of training and youth involvement. Blair Gilbert developed the programme for the Ministry of Youth Development and ran the pilot project for the Rotorua district in 2013.
The Government saw how beneficial the programme was in terms of confidence building, life-skills and exposing students to potential career pathways. The YES programme also recognises that, as our population ages, we will need our young people as volunteers more than ever. As a result, the programme was extended to six other centres throughout New Zealand and granted $60,000 in funding support. We recently completed a second round of the programme here in Rotorua, again under Blair’s management. The programme has also blossomed in the other nominated centres and, just recently, an additional $200,000 has been granted to extend the programme to a further 20 communities. This is a real testament to Blair’s foresight, tenacity and management skills; a credit to our Fire Force and our community. For more details on the YES programme, you can check out the Rotorua YES facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RotoruaYES.
Looking forward a few months or so, the Lake Okareka Fire Force is planning to hold a community bonfire around the 5th of November. If you have any suggestions to make this a memorable (and safe) occasion, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
For anyone wanting to contact the Fire Force, please phone me on 362 8874 or go to our website: www.okarekaruralfire.com.
Chief Fire Officer