Still ready to man hoses
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.