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.

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