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Much appreciated . In the mobile catering caravan are (from left) Salvation Army Corps officer Emma Howan, Fire and Emergency New Zealand area commander Steven Greenyer, Salvation Army Corps officer Jacob Howan and Salvation Army volunteer emergency services co-ordinator David Blaikie. PHOTOS: CLAIRE ALLISON

by Claire Allison

When the fishing boat Dong Won 701 went up in flames in April, firefighters from around South Canterbury flocked to Timaru’s port – and they needed feeding.

Enter the Salvation Army Timaru Corp’s mobile catering caravan and a team of volunteers, who, within an hour of getting the call, were set up to provide hot food and drinks for cold, wet firefighters.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) area commander Steven Greenyer last week presented Timaru Corps officers Jacob and Emma Howan with a framed photograph of the blazing ship in appreciation of the Salvation Army’s efforts.

Mr Greenyer said Fenz provided a supply of food to the Salvation Army, and in the event of major or prolonged incidents, the Salvation Army would bring that out to cater to fire crews.

“At certain times of the day or night, and at short notice, commercial catering providers aren’t available, and on that night it was really appreciated – it was a cold, wet night.”

About 70 firefighters from around South Canterbury turned out to the fire on the first night, and from the second day, crews from Dunedin, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Invercargill supported the local efforts.

The framed photograph of the Dong Won701 fire (April 2018) prsented to the Timaru Salvation Army Corps by Fire and Emergency New Zealand area commander Steven Greenyer in recognition of the SA’s catering for firefighters on the first night of the fire.

Corps officer Jacob Howan said the Fenz food supply was kept in a separate freezer, so when they got the call-out, they could open that up, load up the caravan and be ready to go within about an hour.

Salvation Army volunteer emergency services co-ordinator David Blaikie said the caravan operated for 19 hours solid, providing food and drinks throughout the night, with about eight volunteers subbing in and out.

“It’s people giving up their own time to do that voluntary work,” Mr Blaikie said.

“I worked 7am to 3pm that day, and was called at about 10.30pm to the fire, the same as all our volunteers, really. And some, after staying until 4 or 5am, went on to do their day job.”

The caravan and voluntary staff can also be called into service for rural fires and civil defence emergencies.

Equipped with two gas ovens, a fridge, Zip and Califont, and general kitchen supplies, the caravan carries its own generator, and is set up to cater to different dietary needs – a toaster, for example, is kept separate for gluten-free bread.

Mr Howan said more volunteers for the caravan were always welcome, and people could contact the Salvation Army if they were interested in being part of that emergency response effort.

“When the call goes out, we will start working through a list of possible volunteers, and not all of them will be available, so the more there are, the better.”