Wanaka firefighting champions heading overseas

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PAM.JONES
@alliedpress.co.nz
A WANAKA fire-fighting team has taken out top honours at a South Island championship, and is now heading overseas to try to repeat its success.
The team last week won the South Island event of the United Fire Brigades Association Road Crash Rescue Challenge, which was held in Rotorua alongside the North Island championship.
Team leader and Wanaka Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy fire chief Tony Wellman said the team was thrilled with its success in the event, which was challenging but “great experience”.
“It’s super tough but awesome training. You’ve got to think outside the square.”
Mr Wellman competed with fellow team members Mark Strang, Travis Purnell, Jarrod Wellman, Jodie Rainsford and Rob Thorp.
Their other team member, team reserve Justin Stowell, also travelled to Rotorua for the event, and ended up competing as part of an Auckland team.
Mr Wellman said the event featured some “challenging” scenarios for teams, who complete three crash rescue exercises and one trauma exercise.
Many of the other teams competing had St John officers in their team, but the Wanaka team was comprised entirely of firefighters, who received their medical training from Wanaka St John, Mr Wellman said.
He said the training received during the competition was invaluable, and later passed on to other Wanaka brigade members, both through formal training exercises and informally, through working alongside each other during emergency callouts.
The team is now preparing, and still fundraising for, two international events.
First team members will travel to the Australasian Rescue Challenge, in about three weeks.
The Wanaka team won the Australasian challenge last year, which qualified them for this year’s World Rescue Challenge, in France. The Wanaka team will attend the French event in September.
Mr Wellman said the fire brigade and Wanaka community had already raised the $40,000 needed to attend the French event, and he thanked Upper Clutha residents and businesses for their support.
However, fundraising was still continuing to attend this year’s Australasian event. Normally the costs for this were met by the United Fire Brigades Association, but this year they would not be and the Wanaka team needed about $12,000 to travel to Australia, Mr Wellman said.
He said the Wanaka team’s “passion and experience” was contributing to its success, and team members were looking forward to doing more training and putting it to continued good use.
“They’re just always learning a lot of new skills, and we just gel well as a team, really.”
Anyone wanting to assist with fundraising for the brigade can contact Mr Wellman on 0274 382352 or Jodie Rainsford on 021 356343.
– Additional reporting Mark Price.