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.