Four of their members recently took part in the Fire Fighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge. This entailed running up the 51 floors of the Auckland Sky Tower (a total of 1103 steps) wearing 25kg of firefighting kit.
Firefighters Blair Gilbert, Phil Muldoon, Phil Rennie and Kierin Oppatt were up against other teams from around the country as well as Australia and the United States. They were first in their category ‘‘Donned’’ (this is completing the challenge without wearing the breathing apparatus mask).
The event was all about supporting and raising money for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. The Lake Okareka team raised more than $2000 with a whopping $880,000+ being raised in total from the event. Chief Fire Officer Philip Muldoon has been a member of the Rural Fire Authority for nearly 17 years.
He said it was a complete surprise, winning the ‘‘Donned’’ team category and totally unexpected as it was their first time competing. ‘‘The Sky Tower Stair Challenge pushed us to the limit physically, but having the mental strength to keep pushing that limit was a definite advantage,’’ he said. ‘‘There was such a fantastic effort made by all and the team are all keen to have another crack at this event, so look out next year. ‘‘We entered the event for a team building exercise and to see how we rated against the New Zealand Fire Service teams, and plus it was a unique way to raise money for a great cause.’’
Another huge achievement for the Lake Okareka Fire Force is the success of the Youth in Emergency Services (YES) programme. This 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 the Lake Okareka Fire Force does in terms of training and youth involvement.
Volunteer senior firefighter Blair Gilbert developed the programme for the Ministry of Youth Development and ran the pilot project for the Rotorua district in 2013. Muldoon said the Government saw how beneficial the programme was in terms of confidence-building, life-skills and exposing students to potential career pathways, so as a result, the programme was extended to six other centers throughout New Zealand and granted $60,000 in funding support.
‘‘A second round of the programme has been completed here in Rotorua recently, again under Blair’s management. The programme has also blossomed in the other nominated centers and just recently, an additional $200,000 has been granted to extend the programme to a further 20 communities,’’ he said.
‘‘This is a real testament to Blair’s foresight, tenacity and management skills; a credit to our fire force and our community.’’