Farewell to fire chief
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.