A man who rejoined the Picton Volunteer Fire Brigade after once helping them battle a three-day blaze at a freezing works was awarded a 25-year-service medal on Saturday night.
Former United Fire Brigade Association of New Zealand president Barry Bridges presented Picton fire station officer Ray McKay with a gold star medal for 25 years service to the brigade at an awards ceremony in the Queen Charlotte College hall.
Mr McKay joined the brigade when he was 20 in 1983, moved to Australia three years later, and returned to Picton shortly before the Picton freezing works burnt down in 1990.
He spent three days battling the blaze alongside volunteer members and officially rejoined the brigade later that year.
"They said, ‘well, you might as well come back on board,' so I did and I've been there ever since," Mr McKay said.
"We're quite short-handed so I better not bow out anytime soon."
The Port Marlborough port security officer comes from a long line of volunteer firefighters that includes his uncle, grandfather and great-grandfather.
He was honoured to be awarded a gold star and thanked his employer, and previous employers, for giving him time off work to attend emergency callouts.
The award follows a New Zealand Fire Service Certificate of Commendation presented to him for saving houses after an arson attack in Shakespeare Bay in 2001.
"Some forestry was set on fire and it spread over to accommodation - the ashes from it blew all the way over to Picton," Mr McKay explained.
"There's a few memories you want to remember and a few you want to forget."
He is the Picton station officer, in charge of five volunteer brigade members, and has completed a range of additional emergency training including helicopter rescue over Picton Harbour.
- The Marlborough Express