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Lead the way . . . The Waikaka Volunteer Fire Brigade has a strong female presence: five out of 11 members are women. They are [from left] Qualified firefighter Caitlin Donnelly, recruit Kayla Owen, firefighter Raewyn King, operational support Jess Lamb and firefighter Lisa Gutschlag. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The saying goes “it is a man’s world”, but a group of Waikaka women are proving they can do everything their male counterparts can-and more.

Caitlin Donnelly, Kayla Owen, Raewyn King, Jess Lamb and Lisa Gutschlag joined the Waikaka Volunteer Fire Brigade two years ago and make up nearly half the brigade.

The group of firefighters, operational support and recruits were keeping the brigade alive, chief fire officer Mervyn Clifford said.

“If it wasn’t for the girls, we wouldn’t have a brigade now.

“I think these girls have just stood up and wanted to do something in their community.”

Waikaka was a farming community and most of the men were preoccupied, Mrs King said.

The women had completed Fire and Emergency New Zealand courses and all said the brigade was like a family.

Car accidents, tractor fires and mower fires were common callouts, and they tackled a house fire during lockdown.

Being involved in the brigade allowed the group to make a difference in their community, Mrs Donnelly said.

“It’s making someone’s bad day a little bit brighter.”

Ms Owen was previously a rural firefight in Australia and moved to Waikaka with her partner.

Joining the brigade had helped her immerse herself in the new area.

“It’s the community, the people .. you walk in and it’s like you were here five minutes ago.”

“It was a good way for me to make friends, knowing no-one over here,” Mrs Owen said.

Stepping into a key role and breaking down gender stereotypes enhanced morale.

“It’s huge-realising what you can do yourself, physically and mentally.

There were stereotypes about firefighting being masculine, and “when you can do the same as man it is just a massive self-esteem booster”, she said.

“Knowing you’ve got that training and the skills to go out and help someone-it’s awesome.”