Fire fighting satisfaction
Tony Leighton is in his 40th year of service with the Titahi Bay Volunteer Fire Brigade and must delve into the memory banks to recall why he signed up in the first place.
‘‘It was a young community [in 1972], I’d just turned 18 and had already been out to help at a couple of scrub fires. There were a lot of fires in the area at the time. My brother asked me if I was interested and I thought ‘I’ll give it a go’. The rest, as they say, is history.’’
By the end of his first week he was assisting at a house fire – something that would never happen today.
‘‘I just got thrown in there and learnt on the job. Now, there’s a structured programme of training, it’s three months before you can even ride the truck.’’
Within three years of joining, Leighton became an officer, comfortable in a leading role among the volunteers. He has been station chief since 1981.
The laminated newspaper clippings on the walls of the station house bring back plenty of happy and sad memories. One night in the mid-1970s, kids let off fireworks inside a hall next to the Titahi Bay shops. When police and firefighters attended the burning building, there was an all-in brawl and the uniformed officers were pulled into it.
“They smashed out every window. It was just crazy, an unbelievable night. There’s low points but plenty of high points as well.’’
Plenty has changed in the fire service but the 58-year-old says serving your community will always be at the heart of the firefighters’ creed.
‘‘ It’s just the satisfaction of helping out and being able to get a good job done.’’
It’s a real family affair too, with both his brothers long- serving firefighters at other stations and his son and daughter-in-law are also volunteers at Titahi Bay.
Hitting 40: Tony Leighton will likely be recognised for his 40 years of service in the Titahi Bay Volunteer Fire Brigade later this year.