Farewell to fire chief

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - By NI­COLA STE­WART

Af­ter 34 years, Brian Hunter has hung up his fire fight­ing gear for the last time.

On Mon­day, Mr Hunter of­fi­cially stepped down as chief fire of­fi­cer for the Mata­mata Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade – a po­si­tion he has held for 19 years.

‘‘It’s the right time for me to step aside,’’ he said. ‘‘ The guys are ready to step up and take more re­spon­si­bil­ity.’’

Deputy chief of­fi­cer Kevin Cur­tis will take over the po­si­tion and Mr Hunter said he had 100 per cent con­fi­dence in him.

‘‘I’m leav­ing the guys in good hands, he will do an ex­tremely good job.’’

Mr Hunter joined the vol­un­teer ser­vice in 1978, af­ter long har­bour­ing an am­bi­tion to be­come a fire fighter and ‘‘squirt water’’.

‘‘I wanted to do some­thing for the com­mu­nity and I just had an in­ter­est in the fire ser­vice,’’ he said.

‘‘It wasn’t un­til af­ter I be­came in­volved that I found out my grand­fa­ther had be­come a fire­fighter dur­ing the World War II, so it was in the fam­ily with­out me know­ing it.’’

An en­gi­neer by trade, he quickly be­came im­mersed in train­ing in a va­ri­ety of skills in­clud­ing fire fight­ing, deal­ing with haz­ardous chem­i­cals, ex­tri­ca­tion and res­cue work.

The work was both chal­leng­ing and stim­u­lat­ing, with his ca­reer rang­ing from search­ing for ex­plo­sives fol­low­ing a bomb threat to en­ter­ing a blaz­ing fac­tory to try and pre­vent an ex­plo­sion.

‘‘ I will miss the op­er­a­tional side,’’ he said.

‘‘When you go on a job, whether it’s putting a fire out or cut­ting some­one out of a car, it’s very sat­is­fy­ing. I’ll miss that – I won’t miss get­ting up at two o’clock in the morn­ing.’’

Over the years Mr Hunter has rep­re­sented vol­un­teer bri­gades on a num­ber of re­gional and na­tional com­mit­tees and said it was par­tic­u­larly sat­is­fy­ing work­ing on be­half of his fel­low fire­fight­ers.

‘‘I’ve worked with a great bunch of peo­ple. It’s a great team ef­fort within the fire ser­vice, it has to be, be­cause when you’re go­ing into a burn­ing build­ing with all your gear on you’re 100 per cent re­liant on your mate next to you. If some­thing goes wrong they have to get you out, or you have to get them out, so there’s a great com­rade- ship there.’’ In 1999, he was elected to the United Fire Bri­gades As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive and served a one-year-term as na­tional pres­i­dent.

He has rep­re­sented New Zealand fire­fight­ers at con­fer­ences in Syd­ney and Dar­win and also rep­re­sented Aus­trala­sia at the World Fed­er­a­tion of Vol­un­teer Fire­fight­ers Con­fer­ence in Tokyo.

In 2006, he was recog­nised in the New Year Hon­ours list with a Queen’s Ser­vice Medal for public ser­vice.

As chief fire of­fi­cer, Mr Hunter was in­volved in train­ing and men­tor­ing less ex­pe­ri­enced fire­fight­ers.

‘‘That has been very sat­is­fy­ing, see­ing peo­ple come in with very lit­tle knowl­edge and get­ting them up to a level where they feel con­fi­dent and they are ca­pa­ble of do­ing the job.’’

He was also re­spon­si­ble for the ad­min­is­tra­tive side and said it was very sim­i­lar to run­ning a busi­ness.

‘‘ It’s very sat­is­fy­ing mak­ing sure that ev­ery­thing is up to speed.

‘‘And I still get up on lad­ders and onto roofs.’’

Af­ter three months of leave, Mr Hunter will re­turn to the sta­tion in an ad­vi­sory po­si­tion but will no longer be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

‘‘It will leave a big gap in my life but the tim­ing is right.

‘‘Maybe I will play more golf.’’



Great ser­vice: Vol­un­teer fire fighter Brian Hunter is step­ping down af­ter 19 years as chief fire of­fi­cer.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.