Fire­fight­ers cel­e­brate a ‘marathon’ ef­fort

Taranaki Daily News - - Front Page - Iso­bel Ewing

An orig­i­nal mem­ber of Waitara’s fire po­lice re­mem­bers when 18 vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers worked at the freez­ing works in 1964.

‘‘When there was a call-out it was like the Bos­ton marathon, all of them run­ning up the road,’’ Hugh Tay­lor said.

Old and cur­rent crew mem­bers gath­ered for beers and a hangi at the Waitara fire sta­tion on Satur­day to cel­e­brate 50 years since the op­er­a­tional sup­port unit started.

The op­er­a­tional sup­port unit, which 50 years ago was known as the fire po­lice, is re­spon­si­ble for the safety of fire­fight­ers while they carry out their job.

Hugh Tay­lor and Bruce Pen­gelly were the orig­i­nal fire po­lice, start­ing to­gether in 1964.

Times had cer­tainly changed, Pen­gelly said.

‘‘We had noth­ing when we started, just our own clothes and push-bikes.’’

These days the fire sup­port unit has its own van, high-vis­i­bil­ity vests, light­weight hel­mets and the fire trucks have a closed back to pro­tect crew from the of­ten harsh Taranaki el­e­ments.

Pen­gelly re­calls one par­tic­u­larly foul day when the crew got a call­out to a chim­ney fire.

‘‘It was blow­ing like hell and rain­ing like any­thing, the fire chief and his son jumped in the cab and took off but no­body got on the back.

‘‘They got there and the whole kitchen was alight.

‘‘I bet a few of the guys got a kick in the pants af­ter that.’’

Pen­gelly said safety had im­proved hugely with the in­tro­duc­tion of high-vis.

‘‘We’d be stand­ing out there and the cars would just about run over you,’’ Pen­gelly said. ‘‘You’d wave your torch at them.’’

‘‘And we sup­plied our own torches,’’ Tay­lor added.

Most of their job com­prised dis­pers­ing rub­ber-neck­ers and en­sur­ing rob­beries didn’t oc­cur in nearby shops when ev­ery­one was dis­tracted by a fire, Pen­gelly said.

‘‘You get a lot of nosy bug­gers com­ing along as soon as the siren went off,’’ Tay­lor said.

Now the fire sup­port unit of­fers pro­tec­tion to fire fighters at­tend­ing road ac­ci­dents as well as fires.

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