Fire­fight­ing drive en­dures for 50 y

Sunday News - - NEWS - CATHERINE GROENESTEIN

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.

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