Fire­fighter’s ‘awak­en­ing’



A se­nior Cen­tral Otago fire­fighter who was one of the first on the scene of New Zealand’s worst shoot­ing spree has been recog­nised for his ser­vices to the com­mu­nity.

Alexan­dra Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade chief fire of­fi­cer Rus­sell Anderson, 55, has been awarded the Queen’s Ser­vice Medal in this year’s Queen’s Birth­day Honours.

‘‘I am very hum­bled but there is noth­ing that I do on my own to make the sta­tion suc­cess­ful. It is a team ef­fort,’’ he said.

‘‘Ev­ery­body pitches in and pulls their weight. It’s not I, it’s we, and it is the brigade that has achieved this.’’

Anderson, who has been chief at the Alexan­dra sta­tion for 15 years, got a ‘‘tough awak­en­ing’’ into the fire ser­vice when he joined the vol­un­teer crew in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, in 1989 – a year be­fore gun­man David Gray shot and killed 13 peo­ple in the sea­side town of Aramoana, be­fore he was shot by po­lice him­self.

Anderson worked as a po­lice con­sta­ble at the time, but was called out to a house fire in Aramoana, un­aware he was en­ter­ing the mas­sacre.

‘‘We were the first there ... Later on, we found out there were peo­ple ly­ing there wounded and dead.’’

Po­lice of­fi­cer Stu Guthrie ar­rived while the fire­fight­ers waited nearby, and ac­cepted Anderson’s of­fer of help.

We bor­rowed an old ri­fle off a neigh­bour and Stu said you take the front, I’ll take the back and we will pin him down. [Gray] came out the front and I chal­lenged him to put his gun down and he ran to the back through the house and Stu chal­lenged him, then there was gun­fire,’’ Anderson said.

An­other of­fi­cer ar­rived and they found Guthrie, who had been shot dead.

In his Queen’s Birth­day Honours ci­ta­tion, Anderson is de­scribed as con­tribut­ing to the wel­fare of his fel­low vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers and bri­gades at a lo­cal and na­tional level and is con­sid­ered an ex­pert in the field.

‘‘Dur­ing his lead­er­ship of the Alexan­dra brigade he has en­sured the brigade has met per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors, led suc­ces­sion plan­ning, and over­seen the brigade’s high level of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and per­for­mance on in­ci­dent grounds. Alexan­dra has been con­sis­tently the high­est per­form­ing brigade in the Cen­tral/North Otago area.’’

Dr Grant Nor­bury, Queen’s Ser­vice Medal for ser­vices to con­ser­va­tion; Ruth McNa­mara, Queen’s Ser­vice Medal for ser­vices to the com­mu­nity; and Gor­don Rayner, Queen’s Ser­vice Medal for ser­vices to kayak­ing.

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