‘Rookie’ hits 25 years
BEING awarded a medal for 25 years’ service will be bittersweet for Avondale senior firefighter Richard Knight.
It was supposed to be a day he shared with friend and fellow firefighter Derek Lovell, who was killed last month in an explosion that ripped through a Hamilton coolstore.
“He was on my rookies’ course. We started the job on the same day.
“It will be a bit of a sad day in that respect.”
Mr Knight is one of seven firefighters who will be awarded gold stars at a ceremony tomorrow.
It’s a job that can be tough both physically and emotionally, but one he is proud of.
“At the coalface level there is a sense of satisfaction in working as a team to achieve a common goal and assist someone who needs it.”
The Pt Chevalier resident has worked at a number of stations, including the central city, Onehunga, Mt Roskill and Ponsonby.
“I can still remember the first day I walked into the Onehunga station and introduced myself as the new rookie.
“The first question was: ‘Are you capable of making a cup of tea’?”
Mr Knight’s career has changed a lot since that first day and he is now a rescue specialist.
Removing people from car crashes is a large part of his job and one he knows a lot about.
After a car accident in Papakura in the 1980s a firefighter from his rookie course was among the team who cut him free.
“I know from personal experience what the people we cut out of cars might go through,” he says.
One of the toughest fire jobs he attended was the Terwindle Rest Home fire in Herne Bay in 1989, which killed six elderly residents.
Mr Knight was in the first fire engine to reach the scene.
“The two memories I have from that are watching my boss Terry Castle collapse on the front lawn after being inside and working really hard to extricate and evacuate people. The other is the big loss of life.”
Despite such incidents, most of the rescues he performs are successful and he is looking forward to celebrating his 25-year milestone.
“It’s the knowledge that whatever we do, we are assisting the public in one way or another.”
Other gold star recipients tomorrow include Birkenhead station officer Dave Beatson, Ellerslie firefighter Garth Cowley, Ponsonby station officer Phil Grace, Silverdale acting senior station officer Vaughan Mackereth, Auckland city senior firefi Glenn Roberts and Auckland city senior station officer Paul Turner.
Auckland city chief fire officer Brian Edwards, who earned his gold star 20 years ago, says although many of the men now work outside the central district, it’s where they spent most of their careers.
“It’s a job where experience obviously counts and the main way to get it is through service. It’s on-thejob experience.”
The ceremony will be held at the Auckland Fire Region headquarters in Newton.
Long service: Avondale firefighter Richard Knight is being awarded a gold star for 25 years’ service.