John Collings has volunteered for Taihape Volunteer Fire Brigade since 1967 and was awarded the Queen's Service Medal with his brother Tony and four other firefighters on 11 September 2014 at the Queen's Birthday Honours Investiture.
Here we get to know John...
1. Why did you join the fire service?
I joined the Fire Service in 1965. My boss at the garage told me that joining was part of my automotive apprenticeship. The boss was Lionel Howard who was the CFO of the Taihape Brigade at the time. It wasn’t a hard decision as our family had a long association with the Brigade. There were two other firemen at the garage which meant four people would leave the workshop when the siren sounded.
2. What have been the main changes that you’ve seen in the last 47 years?
There have been lots of changes since I joined, like the Taihape Brigade getting BA sets, riding to calls in covered in cabs, whereas when I started we were on the back of a V8 or Bedford, freezing especially in winter time when responding to Waiouru to assist.
When the NZ Fire Service took over from the local councils, it made a huge difference as the local councils just did not have the funds to help us with equipment etc.
3. What’s been the highlight of your career? Your most memorable moments?
One of the biggest memories was the fire at the New Taihape Hotel in the middle of town. The hotel was a large two storey old wooden building which was built with heart timber and was tinder dry. It was so hot you couldn't walk up the other side of the main street as the heat was breaking windows. Many appliances were called in from Ohakune in the North to Wanganui in the South. We did a great job as only the hotel was destroyed and we saved the other old buildings around it.
One of the other moments was when on Wellington family had a horrendous car accident south of Taihape. They hit a tree on the side of SH1 wrapping the whole car around the tree. All three occupants survived and a few months after the accident came back to personally thank the brigade.
4. What does this medal mean to you?
The QSM was a huge surprise and a lovely recognition of the service I helped to give. The medal was gained with a lot of help from my family and workmates. I was very happy to get recognised by my community.
You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in (top right) or register.