by Helen Martin
Congratulations to Hayley Garnett, the first woman to qualify as an Emergency Response Driver (ERD) in the Helensville Volunteer Fire Brigade’s 105-year history.
Hayley became interested in becoming a firefighter when her sister joined the Kumeu Volunteer Fire Brigade around 10 years ago, and as part of her school photography assignments at Rangitoto College she’d take pictures of the brigade training. On leaving school much of her spare time was taken up playing hockey and netball but, when she moved to Helensville with her husband Andi three years ago, she set her sights on realising her dream of becoming a fire fighter. 18 months on, after moving to a reserve role with her sports teams, Hayley joined the Volunteer Fire Brigade.
“I had a rough idea of what it involved,” she says. “Also, because I was new to the community, I saw it as a way of getting to know people and give something back – I was brought up by my parents and my grandmother to be a firm believer in give and take.”
Not one to hold back, soon after joining the brigade Hayley signed up for the 2018 Sky Tower Stair Challenge. She says her time was “very average” but, as it was her first attempt, she was happy. Now, along with other Helensville volunteers, she’s in training for this year’s Challenge, preparation that includes running up the 290 steps at Muriwai Beach. To start with they go up and down three or four time swearing weighted backpacks, then work up to wearing their gear. The volunteers also train one night a week at the station.
To be able to carry out their duties, every station is required to have a required number of drivers and pump operators. “Halfway through last year they put a call out asking who wanted to be a driver and the child in me couldn’t turn down driving a fire truck,” Hayley says. To become qualified as an ERD you need to get your Class 2 licence, which involves Unit Standards and practical work. You also need to sit the pump operator course so you can supply water in a fire environment. The third step is to be able to turn out to calls fully equipped with lights and sirens.
Hayley’s hard work has already paid off. “The day I finished my training we had two callouts, one within an hour of finishing my training, and I drove them both.” It’s a relatively short time since she joined the Helensville Volunteer Fire Brigade, but she says she’s already heavily invested, a commitment which includes the role of station secretary. “I enjoy it very much. It’s very rewarding. I’ve met so many people and seen so many things. It’s a great way to get involved with the community.”