Young firefighter enjoys the role

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Seventeen-year-old Finlay Russel’s dedication to the community was recently recognised at the Central Otago Awards where she received a highly commended award in the youth category. Simon Henderson talked to Finlay about her enjoyment of helping others.

Getting home after school for some is a chance to relax and play, catch up with homework or kick a ball around.

But for Finlay Russell, when parents are catching up with their children, she is on call for Clyde Fire Station.

“For me that’s when most of the adults have their children, so after-school times, or during the night.”

something she considered until her grandfather joined the fire service when Finlay was 13.

His positive experience – “he absolutely loved it”– inspired her to think about volunteering, and after turning 16 she joined “and never really wanted to leave again”.

“I like coming in the door on a Monday night and doing all the weekly checks and truck checks.”

The Clyde station covers the hills above the Clutha River, halfway towards Alexandra and Omakau, and in the other direction towards Cromwell, as well as the Clyde Dam.

“We’ve done a bit of training up at the dam – they have their own specific system that calls us if there is a problem there.”

The team covered much more than just fires, Finlay said.

“We do lots of car accidents and health calls as well as typical summer bushfires and such.”

There was “months and months” of training to help people “learn all the skills you need to know to be a responding member of the crew”.

The work was hard but with crew members “from all walks of life” there was also a social aspect, “chatting with the others, all these people that I otherwise wouldn’t have met”.

The minimum age to join a volunteer fire brigade was 16, and Finlay was keen to encourage other people her age to consider volunteering.

“The biggest thing I would say is you can do it, you are not restricted by your age or your gender, or whether you can lift an 80kg dummy.”