Nelson Volunteer Brigade 212 firefighter Chris Noonan has been fighting the fire since it began. Photo: Supplied.

Volunteer firefighter gives it his all


Chris Noonan and his partner Sarah haven’t seen much of each other lately.

Chris is a firefighter in Nelson Volunteer Brigade 212 and for the last week has been tasked with helping fight the massive Pigeon Valley blaze.

Over the past eight days he has spent well over 80 hours protecting homes and dampening hotspots, with just one day off.

Together Chris and Sarah run a party animal zoo with around 25 animals in their care including reptiles, birds, ponies and fish.

Sarah has been lucky, her place of employment has given her all the time off she needs to be able to look after the animals while Chris is busy with the fires.

The pair are expecting their first child in March and Chris says it’s amazing that she’s been able to look after everything while being so heavily pregnant.

He says the battle against the massive blaze has been challenging.

“The first three days were the worst, it was very physical and mentally demanding.

“We can’t quite relax yet, but the pressure has been taken off in the last couple of days.”

Chris also works part-time as a landscaper and a builder but says fighting the biggest fire he’s ever dealt with has given him a new determination.

“It’s given me the drive to train harder and be more prepared.

“Nothing can prepare you for something like this, no training, no preparation, but you rely on your officer to give you guidance.”

He says when he first arrived at the fire on Tuesday he was really concerned for people and their homes.

“It’s quite scary to see the homes in the fire, initially there’s nothing really you can do except try to protect people’s homes the best you can.

“The first initial day here in Redwood Valley, as the sun came up, that was the stand out moment for me, when you can really see the extent of it all.

“You’ve just got in your mind ‘if we win here, everyone wins, if we fail, everyone fails’.”

He says the response from the public has been amazing.

A lot of people have been giving us the thumbs up, waving and saying we’ve done a good job whic is great, but there’s thousands of volunteers so it’s really been a team effort.

He says his body is holding up pretty well.

“I had a couple of pretty big blisters on the feet on Tuesday but apart from that it’s pretty good.

“The public have been so responsive to anything we need, we ask for some items like thick  woollen socks for instance, and the community is just like ‘yep we’ve got this’.”

Chris says once the fire is over, he’s looking forward to some creature comforts.

“I’m most looking forward to everyone being able to get back to some normal routine and focusing on getting ready for the baby.”

The fire is expected to be burning for many weeks to come and Brigade 212 are not sure how long they will be needed to continue working on it, but they will return day after day as long as they are needed.