10 months ago

Selwyn Times: February 28, 2017

10 Tuesday

10 Tuesday February 28 2017 Our People SELWYN TIMES Volunteer firefighter who also Rolleston Volunteer Fire Brigade station officer Dan Ohs was among many Canterbury firefighters battling the big blaze in the Port Hills. He spoke to Tom Doudney about what it was like fighting the fire, his day job with St John, and how he became so heavily involved with emergency services So you’re with both the Rolleston fire brigade and St John? I’m a member of the Rolleston Volunteer Fire Brigade and also a paid employee for St John ambulance. I’m not attached to the local Rolleston ambulance station, I’m an intensive care paramedic and I head up the clinical team for St John nationally. I’ve got a response capable vehicle allocated to me as part of my role so while I don’t crew the local ambulance I commonly get called out from home to support them. ACTION MAN: Rolleston firefighter and St John first responder Dan Ohs. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER ​ What was your involvement with the recent Port Hills fire, were you with the Rolleston brigade fighting the fire? On the Wednesday night I attended the fire – that was the night that was particularly challenging. I initially went up to Worsleys Spur for a short time and then we were tasked to protect the houses at Kennedys Bush where we spent about three and a half hours working alongside the helicopters to stop the fire on the hillside from coming down to the houses. It became clear probably an hour after nightfall that the area behind Kennedys Bush was very well controlled. There were a couple of areas up there that were still burning but they were a long way from houses so we got reallocated to go and check Westmorland. We left a police officer up there who was monitoring the fires who would have called us back if we were needed but they were a long way away from any structures and a long way up the hill from what we could reach with our equipment. We were in there until maybe 12.30pm and then we were sent back to Rolleston as they got into a phase of just holding what they had overnight rather than actively fighting it. What was it like at its height on Kennedys Bush? We managed to get a local bulldozer driver to put a fire break in between the houses and the hillside. The fire probably got to within 30m of the houses and we managed to stop it there which was really good. It was a great big wide hillside and we were limited to where we could get our hoses to, we couldn’t get our truck in there and we were worried about our ability to exit really fast. So we got a lot of support from helicopters in the first few hours in getting to things that we couldn’t get to which was really cool. How big were the flames at that point? Because we had mainly grass where we were, we had a fast moving fire but it wasn’t massive flames right there. In the areas surrounding us, where you could see the trees and certainly in Worsleys Rd, there were very impressive flames, maybe 20m or 30m high. HERITAGE OPEN DAY

SELWYN TIMES Tuesday February 28 2017 11 does his bit for St John Is the Port Hills fire the biggest you have been to? The common chat amongst the firefighters was that it was the biggest that any of us had ever been to – I have been in the Rolleston brigade for 17 years and it was by far the biggest for me. It was also a very different type of fire behaviour to what we are used to. There were a number of paid staff and Rural Fire guys who have fought similar fires in the United States and Australia but in the main none of us had experienced something like that in Canterbury. How did you feel about the support the firefighters received from the community? That was very cool and humbling. The brigade was donated beer, soft drink and baking and there were thank you letters. A number of kids from Clearview Primary School made cards which were dropped off and we reciprocated by giving them an old fire brigade helmet with a message of thanks on it. With St John, how often do you get called out to support ambulance? It varies, typically it would be a couple of times a week. Normally it is because they need some support with intensive care Purchase any 5 Innoxa products to receive a free product of your choice! * EXTREME: Rolleston firefighters protecting houses on Kennedys Bush Rd. paramedic level interventions or because the local ambulances have all been tasked to other jobs and I can get to an incident [in Selwyn] significantly faster than a town ambulance can. How often do you get called out with the Fire Service? With the Rolleston brigade, one out of every four weeks you will be on call. During the busy period you can get called out eight or nine times a week, whereas during the quiet period, which is winter for us, you just get one or two jobs a week. I know the fire brigade get called out to accidents and things as well. Do you ever gets called out twice with both fire and ambulance? At times I can be paged by both fire and ambulance. The most common example would be a motor vehicle crash. What I tend to do is go to the fire station, make sure the guys know I am going and there is someone else able to crew the truck. I will normally just go to the scene in my car and do the patient care and I am there if my fire crew needs EMERGENCY: Dan Ohs volunteers for the Fire Service and works for St John. some support as well. When you say that you get called out to support ambulance staff sometimes, is that because you have quite specific skills that not all staff would have? Yes. Relative to the crews that are normally on crew in Selwyn I have a range of drugs and skills which I can use which it isn’t common for us to use. You would attend a number of serious incidents throughout the year. How do you personally handle that? Is it difficult, or are you used to it? I don’t think you ever get used to it. I think if you get used to it you run the risk of not having the empathy which is required to attend the incident and comfort both patients and their families. The best method for debriefing that I find, and it’s very personal for anyone, is to talk to your colleagues and to talk to family. Both St John and the Fire Service provide us with peer support options – people you can phone up confidentially if you don’t want to talk to your local people, and you can talk to without talking to someone who you know. Have you had previous jobs before working full-time since emergency services? I have been with St John since I was in my early 20s and prior that I was just sort of studying and doing bits and pieces jobs like pumping gas and working at sawmills and things. I became involved with emergency services when I moved out to Rolleston and had no conception that there was this thing called volunteer firemen. I was working at the local petrol station and made this association between this funny air raid siren going off and the fact the fire truck was going past every time that it did. When one of the guys from the brigade came in, in uniform, I asked him about it and he said come down and have a look. So I went down and the guy who was in charge of the brigade at that point, Glenn Cockburn, also worked for ambulance. I joined the fire brigade and then he encouraged me to start volunteering with St John. Varicose Vein Treatment Non-surgical Vein Laser Treatments available Tired of aching and unsightly veins? No surgery, no scars, no stitches. No time off work - continue normal daily activities. An affiliated provider to Southern Cross Health Society (medical necessity criteria apply) - check your policy for cover. Enjoy skirts, short and cropped pants again. Payment plans available (Conditions apply) To join, ask your pharmacist for the Innoxa Beauty Club Loyalty Card today! 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