Trained volunteers helped with evacuations, linked people with vital services, distributed food, toiletries and other basic supplies, and provided a friendly listening ear to anyone who needed it.

For evacuees Rob and Sarah Bradley, and Red Cross volunteer Tamsyn Settle, it was an experience they will never forget.

Rob and Sarah were among the first to be evacuated; they had 15 minutes to leave the home they had lived in for more than 35 years. In doing so, they had to leave behind more than 100 sheep and their chickens.

“We went in to the Civil Defence Centre in Wakefield at around 2am because we couldn’t sleep and thought they might have information. When we saw the Red Cross people there it was like seeing family. They were just amazing. I think Tamsyn has adopted us. She made us feel so much better – a coffee was put in front of us before we even asked for it.

“It takes all the pressure off you. It’s like a huge big hug. Red Cross has been an incredible support. We could see that they were tired as well, but they were still there for us. We still have a house so everything else will work itself out. Red Cross is just different. They make you feel so much better.”

Tamsyn has been a Disaster Welfare and Support Team member in Christchurch for about a year and the NelsonTasman fires was her first deployment.

“I was on the night shift at the Civil Defence Centre when Rob and Sarah came in. They were quite upset and our psychological first aid training shows us that you don’t know how people are going to react when you try to talk to them. But they just wanted to talk and they stayed for about two hours. When they left they said they felt a lot better and were glad they had come in.

“We train and train in the hope that we never have to use what we have learned. But now that I can put it all to work in this situation … it makes it all worth it. We’re for the people and having someone there in a bright red suit with a smiling face asking if they’re okay … I think people really appreciate it.”

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