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, UFBA Chief Executive, 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 as 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, international firefighting leaders from Britain and the US, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Hon Tracey Martin, and UFBA’s own people. 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.”
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