Keeping firefighting in the family
The Craigies are the type of nosy neighbours you want.
Their farm house affords them a view over Owaka, which means they often know where house fires are, sometimes long before the siren sounds.
Between four of them, Bevan, Clive, Dennis and wife Katrina, they’ve clocked up 90 years’ service with the Owaka fire brigade, with Dennis awarded his 25 year gold star award.
He’s also well known in chillitasting circles for his palate - the fire you can’t put out, he said.
Both his father Clive and uncle Bevan served 60 years between them, and Katrina did a five-year stint before their two children were born.
Dennis says every fire fighter should ‘‘breed their own replacement’’. Which means with the starting age 18, and his son Korban only 11, he needs to stay in the brigade for at least another seven years.
Dennis recalls his first fire, Terry Burling’s factory at Owaka:
‘‘I was over the paddock ploughing and saw the smoke and flames and took off.
‘‘The fastest way to get there was in the tractor and I still recall the looks I got when I pulled up to the fire and jumped out of the tractor with the plough still attached, in my gear.
‘‘I put a BA [breathing apparatus] on and in we went.’’
Clive has never lived down the ‘‘mirror fire’’. He burst into a big shed fire, with flames leaping ahead of him.
‘‘I gave it heaps but it wouldn’t go down.’’
In all the smoke, he didn’t realise the fire was actually behind him, reflected in the mirror attached to a big wardrobe in front of him.
Bevan will never forget a chimney fire he attended. Smoke was pouring out of the ceiling, but the trouble was, they couldn’t find the actual chimney.
The tin and pumice chimney stack had crumbled away between the ceiling and roof, but could still draw smoke upward.
‘‘Looking down, it was just a big black hole.’’
Needless to say there were a few very wet firemen below, who got soaked, while their mates had to play guess work with the fire hoses above.
However, thanks to their efforts, the house, visible through Dennis and Katrina’s farmhouse windows, is still standing today.
‘‘Yep, we can trace a lot of history by looking through those windows,’’ Dennis said.