Double gold for Darryl

VANITA PRASAD
Last updated 10:29 08/11/2012
SERVICE

LONG SERVICE: Senior firefighter Darryl Johnston receives a double gold star this Saturday for 50 years of service.

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Darryl Johnston would be happy with no special celebrations to mark his lengthy career fighting fires in the west.

The Titirangi resident insists he's just doing the job he enjoys and there's no need for any commotion.

But this Saturday he'll be the centre of attention when receives a 50-year double gold star, honouring his commitment to the profession.

As a teenager Mr Johnston experienced first hand the damage fire could wreak.

"As a family we got burnt out of our house. I was just up the road working at the service station and I could see the smoke from the fire but no-one wanted to tell me it was my house."

His family emerged unscathed but the house was devastated.

In 1962, aged 15, Mr Johnston joined the Titirangi Fire Brigade as a volunteer where his father Tom was a founding member.

"He encouraged me to join. I always used to go along to calls in the car with him anyway so it made sense."

After nine years volunteering at the station while selling parts for Vauxhall and Bedford trucks Mr Johnston decided to become a professional firefighter.

He became the station keeper taking care of the equipment and responding to emergency calls.

"It was a fairly busy station. The brigade had a huge area covering Huia, Piha, Karekare, Titirangi Laingholm. The travelling distance made some of the fires pretty big by the time we got there.

"There was a fire which started around Rayner Rd in Piha which went all the way to the top of the hill."

Being a firefighter during that time meant a huge time commitment says Mr Johnston.

"We'd work Monday to Friday and be on call during the weekends. So you had to be available 24/7.

"That made it hard on the family and I probably missed out on a lot. I never got to go away on school trips and the like."

Mr Johnston has worked at many stations throughout Auckland including Mt Roskill, Balmoral, Avondale, and Henderson where he is now based.

He says it's been a privilege to save lives.

"It's nice to think you've done someone a good turn and sometimes they get back to the station and thank you."

Henderson senior station officer Steve Callagher says Mr Johnston's dedication is admirable.

"He's pretty well dedicated his life to the service. For me, you see a lot of firefighters younger than Darryl lose their enthusiasm for the job but after 50 years he's still gives it 100 per cent.

"His shirt is always more pressed than anyone else and the fire truck is his pride and joy."

Now Mr Johnston helps the Fire Service train recruits as well a his regular work at Henderson station and he says he's not giving up the job he loves yet.

"I enjoy it as much today as I did the day I started. I still look forward to coming to work in the morning."

  • HOW THE SERVICE HAS CHANGED SINCE 1962 1969: Seven elderly residents of a nursing home in Wellington died when it was gutted by fire. The tragic event led to an inquiry which led to the establishment of Fire Safety Regulations in the 1970s. 1974-1975 The Fire Service Commission was created and three fulltime members were set up. The commission abolished the 277 local authority based fire boards and formed the New Zealand Fire Service. This centralised standards and controls. Two of the commissioners were fire officers with the chairperson appointed from outside the Fire Service. On April 1, 1976, the New Zealand Fire Service ‘went live'. 1984 A fire in a chemical warehouse in Auckland caused injuries to 60 firefighters after they came into contact with chemicals. An investigation resulted in improved clothing for firefighters, a standard procedure for fireground safety, the introduction of fireground safety officers and changes to the occupational health service. 1990 A series of fatal fires in rest homes led to the Fire Service calling for compulsory smoke detectors and sprinklers. 2006 A National Training Centre was opened in Rotorua. The centre has the latest state of the art training tools and is the international benchmark for fire training facilities.

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