Hundreds of firefighters gave double amputee and former volunteer firefighter Mark Inglis a standing ovation after his speech at the New Zealand fire brigade annual conference in Taranaki on Saturday.
Inglis, 53, was the keynote speaker at the 134th United Fire Brigade Association annual general meeting held over the weekend at TSB Stadium in New Plymouth.
Event manager Ceara Owen-Parry said 480 people attended the event including 348 firefighters from around the country.
It was the first time it had been held in Taranaki since the 1980s, she said.
Throughout New Zealand the UFBA had 525 stations in its membership which included rural, industrial, paid and volunteer firefighters, she said.
Mr Inglis had both his legs amputated after being stuck on Mt Cook for 13 days in a climbing incident 30 years ago.
He spoke of the challenges faced that day and since then, relating it back to the hard and sometimes emotional work firefighters were faced with in their job.
Mr Inglis described how he and his climbing partner Philip Doole were trapped in an ice cave on Mt Cook for 324 hours during "a storm like no other" with winds of up to 140kmh.
"After five days your feet go as solid as a piece of rump steak out of the freezer," Mr Inglis said.
While trapped in the ice cave, which the pair dubbed "middle peak hotel", the only rations Mr Inglis and his partner had were five Shrewsbury biscuits and a Moro Bar, he said.
His weight went from 70 kilograms to 39kg.
They never did end up eating the Moro Bar, he said.
Mr Inglis said in every crisis there was an opportunity.
"At every situation, no matter how dire it is, there's always an opportunity."
One such opportunity that resulted from having no legs was that he never had to worry about getting frostbitten feet again, he said.
Mr Inglis went on to win a silver medal in cycling at the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games and in 2006 became the first ever double amputee to reach the summit of Mt Everest.
UFBA chairman Peter Drummond said Mr Inglis' speech was one of the highlights of the weekend.
"The UFBA is in good health, we have strong financial performance and good board management," he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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