Brigade stal­wart hon­oured

From fight­ing fires to sav­ing lives, no day was ever the same. Briar Hub­bard re­ports.

Franklin County News - - FRONT PAGE -

Mar­ion Skel­lams cor­rects her­self ev­ery time she says ‘‘we’’ in­stead of ‘‘they’’.

Some­times she doesn’t no­tice. Just a slip of the tongue, an easy mis­take to make af­ter 33 years.

She re­tired from the Onewhero Vol­un­teer Ru­ral Fire Force in May, but be­fore that, nearly half of her adult life was ded­i­cated to the sta­tion.

Her husband Richard was one of three who saw a need for vol­un­teer fire fighters in Onewhero and founded the force in 1984.

In those days the fire en­gine was sim­ply a trailer with a hose and pump on it.

At first, Mar­ion was sim­ply try­ing to help ease Richard’s work­load, but she fell in love with the role, call­ing the homes of vol­un­teers, some­times rous­ing them from their sleep, to tell them the lit­tle town needed their help.

‘‘Richard was the sec­re­tary but he couldn’t type, so I did the typ­ing.

‘‘We didn’t have a siren or any­thing, so I did all the phon­ing - that was how I had to do it for nine years.

‘‘Then I thought ‘blow this’ I’ll be­come a mem­ber, and I be­came a fire­fighter, even though I didn’t think I’d be strong enough, but it was a re­ally good thing.’’

Af­ter 13 years of fight­ing fires, res­cu­ing horses from holes, sand bag­ging flood zones and pro­vid­ing med­i­cal re­lief at ac­ci­dents, she trained as a med­i­cal of­fi­cer - al­most to the same level as a para­medic.

‘‘That was very sat­is­fy­ing be­cause you could help peo­ple.

‘‘We saw all sorts of things, you wouldn’t say you en­joyed it, but it was very sat­is­fy­ing com­ing home, know­ing you’d helped some­one.’’

For 11 years she raced out the door to aid lo­cals who had been in car crashes, ATV ac­ci­dents, car­diac ar­rests and farm­ing in­ci­dents.

Her most dif­fi­cult call-out was one to her own mum, who had heart prob­lems.

‘‘That was hard, but she was fine for a cou­ple years.

‘‘We had an un­writ­ten rule that if it was some­one we knew, we didn’t have to go...but of­ten I didn’t re­alise who they were un­til af­ter.’’

If the pager went off in the early hours of the morn­ing, Mar­ion knew what it was likely to be. ‘‘The 3am calls were hard - there’s a lot of heart prob­lems at that time.’’

*Con­tin­ued page 7

‘‘We saw all sorts of things, you wouldn’t say you en­joyed it, but it was very sat­is­fy­ing com­ing home, know­ing you’d helped some­one.’’

BRIAR HUB­BARD/STUFF

Mar­ion Skel­lams’ gold star is a sym­bol of each flame she fought, each life she re­sus­ci­tated and ev­ery phone call she made to rouse fire fighters from their sleep.

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