'It's a real honour'
Forbes Greenfield's life revolved around fire fighting and his brigade.
At 93 the life member was back at his beloved Wellsford fire station to unveil its first honours board in its 73 year history.
The former deputy fire chief's name is among 98 marked on the large macrocarpa slab.
"I lived it," Mr Greenfield says of his 28 years with the brigade from the 1950s to about 1985.
He has continued to maintain close ties.
He would often stop in the station on the way home from work.
"My wife said ‘why do you bother coming home - just stay at the fire station'."
Mr Greenfield says he still calls at the station, but mainly on special occasions now.
Moving to Wellsford from Kaikohe as a Dalgety's stock agent in the early 1950s, Mr Greenfield established a stationer's shop then later moved further downtown and rented his old shop out.
"The brigade wanted people to join up and asked me so I said ‘right oh'.
"One night we got a call to a fire and it was my old shop," Mr Greenfield recalls.
"It wasn't worth doing anything with it after that so I sold the section."
Roads were mainly gravel then and Mr Greenfield says their fire engine was a Landrover adapted to carry a pump, hoses, two firefighters on the back and two in the cab plus the driver. ‘
‘There were only about four or five of us at the time."
Wellsford now has about 30 active members.
The camaraderie is a wonderful part of brigade life, Mr Greenfield says.
"We helped each other out. They still keep an eye on me too."
Recall of incidents has faded with the years, but Mr Greenfield jogged his memory leafing through an album of press clippings and photos.
One of the most tragic was the death of a 9-year-old boy in a shed fire in 1967.
A book Mr Greenfield compiled on the brigade was used to track down many former members for Saturday's ceremony, attended by more than 100 firefighters past and present and their families.
Firefighters tended to stay on for an average 15 to 18 years in Mr Greenfield's day. Now the average stay is more like seven to nine years.
Mr Greenfield has helped his community in other ways too. He has been a justice of the peace for 50 years and has taken the role of Santa in Wellsford's annual Christmas parade.
Thanking brigade members Reg Phillips and Colin and Lisa Greenwood for their work in getting the honours board made, Mr Greenfield says people now have a record of those who have served in the brigade for more than five years.
"It was a wonderful life and I wouldn't have missed it," he says.