Martinborough firefighters training to help as qualified medical first responders

Firefighters in the Wairarapa town of Martinborough are taking on a new job as qualified medical first responders.

Just 8 percent of Fire and Emergency's brigades are trained in such a way they can respond and offer medical assistance.

And with just three ambulance crews servicing the entire region that could mean the difference between life and death.

A group of firefighters are responding to an emergency. But instead of a fire truck they grab paramedic equipment from a rapid response vehicle and treat a test patient who's been hit by a car.

Martinborough's volunteer Fire Brigade only attends the most serious of medical calls - purple calls.

After 200 hours of medical training they'll soon be qualified to respond to any medical calls in the local area where an ambulance isn't immediately available.

"We've got one based in Greytown so that's 10 to 15 minutes away and then there's two based in Masterton which is a 30 to 40-minute drive under lights," Chief Fire Officer Jake Hawkins says.

That time is crucial with Wellington Free Ambulance covering what's thought to be the largest service area in the North Island.

"From Mount Bruce all the way down to Ngawi and around that area there so we have three double-crewed ambulances in that area," Wairarapa Shift Manager Jonathan Rees says.

The clinical desk is a medical helpline that will assist firefighters with further advice on how to treat someone if an ambulance or helicopter isn't available.

"We expect to get another 80 medical calls on top of what we're currently getting," Hawkins says.

Over the past six weeks, 10 of this brigade's firefighters have trained as medical responders - a first for the Wellington region.

When they hit the road in October they can respond to a wider range of medical and health-related callouts and potentially save lives.

"Really important that the public are aware that if you do need medical help you still call 111 and ask for an ambulance," Rees says.

And if firefighters are the ones to turn up they'll be medically qualified to treat you.