Still ready to man hoses

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART

Fire­fighter Kevin Cur­tis can still re­mem­ber the first ma­jor fire he at­tended.

‘‘It was the Wa­haroa Cool­store fire. I was on the sec­ond at­tend­ing ap­pli­ance. I think I’d only been on the brigade a few months and we came round the cor­ner to turn off to Wa­haroa and all I could see in the sky was smoke and flames. I was com­pletely over­awed,’’ he said.

Along­side fire­fight­ers from across the Waikato, Mr Cur­tis fought for two days to stop the blaze.

‘‘It’s still one of the big­gest fires I have ever seen,’’ he said.

Last Mon­day, Mr Cur­tis took over as chief fire of­fi­cer of the Mata­mata Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade af­ter al­most 37 years in the ser­vice.

‘‘I’m look­ing for­ward to the said.

‘‘ The brigade has huge re­spect in the area and I’m aim­ing to con­tinue that high stan­dard in train­ing and op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency.

‘‘Brian [Hunter] will al­ways be a hard act to fol­low; the wis­dom and knowl­edge that he’s handed down over the years has been in­valu­able but ev­ery­one puts their own mark on it.’’

Mr Cur­tis joined the brigade in 1974 at just 16 years old and con­tin­ued to progress through the ranks, be­com­ing deputy chief in 1996.

His fa­ther was also deputy chief of the brigade for 171⁄ years and Mr Cur­tis said be­com­ing a fire­fighter had been in­evitable.

‘‘It’s a fam­ily thing. My dad, my un­cle and my brother were all in

chal­lenge,’’ he the brigade so I was just fol­low­ing in their foot­steps,’’ he said.

‘‘ My last year of school I moved out of town and when I came back I was stay­ing with a mate who was in the brigade too, so it was just kind of a done deal.’’

Over the years, Mr Cur­tis has seen the fire ser­vice ex­pand from fight­ing fires to a much wider res­cue ser­vice.

Whether it was in­ves­ti­gat­ing a bomb threat or cut­ting some­one out of their car, he said there was a huge amount of sat­is­fac­tion in help­ing peo­ple.

‘‘It’s the grat­i­tude of peo­ple com­ing in here say­ing ‘you guys came and pulled me out of a car’ and they are walk­ing into the sta­tion to thank us,’’ Mr Cur­tis said. ‘‘That gives us the big­gest buzz, when you’ve made a dif­fer­ence in some­one’s life.’’

Though chief fire of­fi­cer was mostly an ad­min­is­tra­tive role, Mr Cur­tis said he would still make the trucks as much as he can.

‘‘ At the end of the day, we all joined the ser­vice to put the wet stuff on the red stuff,’’ he said.

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