Volunteers ready for next hundred

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 13:49 04/02/2013
Ian Campbell
Bruce Mercer/FAIRFAX NZ

Century of fires: Chief fire officer Ian Campbell and senior station officer Karl Tutty in the new centenary lounge.

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Te Awamutu Fire Brigade is polishing the brass and squaring its kit in preparation of its centenary year of service to the community.

The first call to the brigade came in January 1913 and its establishment was a matter of necessity.

"I think there was a house fire and the death of four or five children and that prompted the community into action," chief fire officer Ian Campbell said.

The brigade has converted its billiards room into a centenary lounge for the celebration, which will run three days so the current crop of 33 can honour the role of those who came before them.

"It is going to be a good chance to meet with the guys that really made this place. It is going to be a special time for me and a special time for the brigade."

The first station house was built at Roche St in 1925 and moved to the current location in 1973. Argument reigns over the biggest fire ever fought by the brigade but notable events were the 1946 Airforce Stores blaze, the 1974 Jary Rd peat fire and the more recent Tamahere coolstore fire in 2008.

Historically fires were fought from the outside of the building to the inside, but with advancement in technology Mr Campbell said techniques had changed.

"Generally what happens now in most cases we will fight the fire from the inside of the building, out."

It can be a dangerous line of work. Mr Campbell nearly lost his life at the Munro Caravans blaze in 1984 but he said a certain level of excitment goes with it. "I've been into some good house fires. It can be exhilarating but it can be blinkin' scary too and I have come close to the other side."

Around 140 Te Awamutu fire fighters, all volunteers, and their partners will make their way to the centenary celebration.

"The fires are the same for us as they are for paid staff so we have got to be trained the same as they are."

The volunteer tradition continues to this day; the 33 current members juggle their community service with paid employment and family responsibilities.

"There has got to be family commitment as well. If they are committed to let their family member drop tools and go when they need to, that is important to me."

The centenary celebration will take place on February 8, 9 and 10 with an open day for the community on February 9 from 9am to 2pm.

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- Waikato

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