Firefighting drive endures for 50 y
DENNIS Alexander might just be New Zealand’s most dedicated firefighter.
Not only has the 70-year-old just been awarded a double gold star for serving 50 years as a fireman, but he also has his own museum of firefighting memorabilia housed in an old dairy factory in rural Taranaki.
He welcomes groups of visitors to view the thousands of model fire engines, flags, uniforms, fire extinguishers, photographs and his pride and joy – a painstakingly restored 1959 Dennis fire engine.
Alexander became a volunteer with the Eltham Fire Brigade 10 years ago, after 40 years’ fulltime service in Petone, Ardmore, Auckland, Hawera and New Plymouth.
He and his wife Ann moved to Eltham after Dennis spotted a building big enough to house his collection.
Firefighting is in his blood – his father was a full-time fireman, and his grandfather was superintendent of the Thames volunteer brigade.
The job was very different when he started, aged 16, he said.
‘‘It was very regimented, almost naval. It was run by exseamen, everything had to be done on the double. We didn’t salute, but it was pretty close to it.’’
In those days, health and safety was a slightly different concern.
‘‘One guy on a ladder would put his foot on the sill, tie a rope around a person and lower them to the ground, and we’d carry people out.’’
Chief fire officer of the Eltham brigade, Dave Waite, described Alexander as ‘‘an all-round good guy’’ who was well respected by the brigade.
‘‘Denny’s knowledge and methodology is invaluable. If we have a technical rescue, he’s a very good guy to call on.’’
Alexander was also key in a lot of successful fundraising campaigns and managed the tanker service that delivered water to households in the community.
Dennis Alexander has painstakingly restored this Dennis appliance, the pride and joy of his collection of firefighting memorabilia.