Volunteer firefighter Seth Rance stands beside a Greytown truck. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

ARTHUR HAWKES
arthur.hawkes@age.co.nz

Seth Rance of Greytown has been a member of the Greytown Volunteer Fire Brigade since he was 16, and has managed to juggle this with building work and first-class cricket for Central Districts, as well as his call-ups to play for the Black Caps.

“I suppose it’s not every day you join an emergency service when you’re 16,” Rance said. “It certainly sculpted me to be the person who I am today – it taught me a lot about life and how to go about respecting and treating people.”

Rance has been a volunteer firefighter for the past 16 years, and of the countless emergencies he’s attended, he recalled the 2012 Carterton hot air balloon crash which claimed 11 lives as one he would never forget.

“I was part of the crew that responded to that, and that’s always stuck with me. That was not a nice thing to go to and you wouldn’t wish it on anyone to do that, but that’s just the nature of the job.”

Rance also remembered a severe crash on the Featherston straights, involving an elderly woman who collided with a post. The actions of Rance and the team meant that a life was saved.

“We managed to cut her out, and she made a recovery when she wasn’t really expected to. That’s the other side of it, when you can actually make a real difference.”

Rance detailed the high level of preparedness that volunteer firefighters must always maintain, such as keeping their car facing outwards, ready to go – with a frost cover if it’s going to be cold, and keeping their pager and car keys with them at all times – including in the toilet and beside the shower.

“You drop everything you’re doing, then go down to the station, and there’s a system in place that tells you what truck to take and where you’re going to, and you get out the door as quick as you can.”

Rance said Greytown’s response time was fast – about 2 to 3 minutes from the time the volunteers heard the siren or pager, to the time they got to the station.

He said that chief Steve Merrick had been a great mentor to him, and everyone at the station, and also Gary Baker, who had been a Greytown firefighter for more than 30 years.

Looking back at his time with the brigade, Rance described his experience as “amazing”, and said he planned to serve indefinitely.

“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s fantastic to be able to give back to the community.”

More than 80 per cent of Fire and Emergency’s 14,000 personnel nationwide are volunteers.

  • National Volunteer Week, celebrating the work of volunteers and charities, began on Sunday and continues through to Saturday. Every day this week, the Times-Age will highlight a person [or organisation] who gives their time for the betterment of the Wairarapa community.