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Emily Sutton

Firefighter (Green Watch), Airport Fire Service

4 May 2024

Working as a full-time airport firefighter is a dream job for Emily Sutton. Discover the full variety of what she gets up to day-to-day, and what ignited her passion for firefighting.

How long have you been a firefighter? I've been a trained firefighter for about ten years, working in rural firefighting and urban volunteer brigades. I've worked at the airport for two and a half years. Getting a full-time role here has been a dream of mine!

What do you do as an airport firefighter? We have to make sure our gear is always ready to go and we’re ready to respond to different types of calls from medical events to fires, safety hazards to alarm activations, so there’s a lot of preparation and training to ensure we’re always ready.

How big is the airport’s firefighting crew? We are up to almost 50. We work 24 hours a day on four watches – blue, green (that's me), red and brown.

What does a typical day (or night) look like for you? It always starts off with a daily inspection of our gear and trucks, then we mix in a bit of training and attend call outs.

What do you love most about your job? The people I work with. We all have very similar minds and a common goal. We're like a family.

What inspired you to get into firefighting? I was a high school student back when the earthquakes happened. It was inspiring to see the firefighters and rescue crews helping out and I wanted to be able to do that one day.

Have you had a chance to help out at any major events? I've done quite a bit in the last few years. I went up to the North Island for Cyclone Gabrielle for a couple of deployments, I've been to Canada once, and Australia four times to fight wildfires (read more on page 18 and 19 of our 2023 Annual Review). The airport managers and fire teams have been really good about allowing me to continue on these missions. They've supported me to get leadership skills and outside experience under my belt

Most exciting experience on the job at Christchurch Airport? The high wind days keep  us on our toes. During the last high wind day, we had to put out a scrub fire, tie down some light aircraft that were threatening to move around, then figure out how to secure a boat cover that could’ve broken loose. We do a lot of problem solving so nothing gets interrupted on the airfield.

Can you describe some of the cool kit you have on hand? We've got Fire 4, which is a high reach truck with a 16.7 metre high monitor that pumps out massive volumes of water. We've also got a virtual training system where we can enter aircraft and literally unscrew bits and pieces.

Tell us one thing most people wouldn’t know about you. I can ride a unicycle! I taught myself when I was nine by tying a rope between two trees. It’s a good way to surprise people.

What are you happiest doing when you’re not working? I love being out on the water. Jet skiing, boating, swimming, watersports – all that kind of stuff.

Where’s your favourite winter/summer escape? Fiji. I've been there about six times. I like the islands and exploring different places. Plus there's tonnes of water!

What advice would you give to someone hoping to kick off a career at Christchurch Airport? Keep an open mind and grab any opportunity… and for firefighters, strive for greatness.

Any favourite firefighting quotes? Do it once. Do it right.