‘Rookie’ hits 25 years

Auckland City Harbour News - - Front Page - By Janie Smith

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.

Photo JA­SON OXENHAM

Long ser­vice: Avon­dale fire­fighter Richard Knight is be­ing awarded a gold star for 25 years’ ser­vice.

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