Fireman looks back at 50 years on job

MICHELE ONG
Last updated 05:00 07/04/2014

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Graeme Trigger was a 17-year-old a "little rough around the edges" when he first signed up with the fire service.

However, it was a job Trigger loved so much he stayed on for five decades and today he will be presented with a 50-year-service medal in recognition of his long-term contributions.

"It's a bit embarrassing," Trigger, 67, of Merrilands, told the Taranaki Daily News when asked how he felt about being presented with the award.

Taranaki volunteer support officer and long-time friend Maurice Kelly will present him with his medal.

Trigger is also believed to be the first person in New Plymouth to be awarded the double gold star.

He was first introduced to the fire service by a friend who thought it had something to offer him.

"A guy from Inglewood was a fireman and his father was a policeman," Trigger said. "With me being 16 going on 17, he thought I might be getting a little rough around the edges."

So Trigger went along to a meeting and "kept on going after that", he said.

It was the excitement of being part of a fire service, along with the chance to ride on fire engines which had neither roofs nor heaters, that spurred Trigger to sign up.

"We didn't have any radios in those days," he said. "So if you went the wrong way, you didn't find out until you got to where you were going that it was the wrong place."

Firefighting equipment such as uniforms and fire engines have also evolved significantly throughout the five decades.

"Nothing [the uniforms] seemed to fit," Trigger said.

"Whoever left, you had their gear. The jackets were too small, the helmet hurts your head, the boots were made out of leather and it used to leak."

Attending to fire callouts in a roof-less fire engine posed its own set of problems.

"In the middle of winter, going to a hayshed fire in the back blocks, it's freezing," Trigger said. "By the time you get there, you warm up for a while."

But once the fire was put out, the dripping wet firefighters would climb back on the "old truck" and "freeze to death" on their way back to the station, he said.

Trigger started with the Inglewood volunteer brigade in 1963, where he stayed for six years, before joining the New Plymouth station, also as a volunteer, in 1969.

In 1970, he became a fulltime firefighter, a role he held until 2007 before moving to the operational support team.

"If I can, I'll do it all over again," Trigger said.

"I recommend it to anybody, male or female, it's so good to come away from a job and say you have helped that person."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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