Congratulations to six volunteer firefighters, awarded their Queen's Service Medal on 11 September 2014.
Dave McFarlane, NZFS Commission Deputy Chairman in Wellington praised their contributions to the Fire Service in his speech at their investiture.
Below we hear from the Deputy Chairman....
"Being a volunteer firefighter is a tradition in some families and one the Commission is most grateful for. It is not uncommon for a brigade to include members from two or three generations of the same family.'
"I think John and Tony Collings are the first two brothers to be honoured with a QSM in the same year..."
Tony Collings retired after 46 years of service, 19 of them as its Chief Fire Officer. He was a strong supporter of the local St John ambulance service, which went as far as taking charge of its maintenance. He instigated the brigade’s campaign to install smoke alarms for the town’s elderly folk and is involved in several other local groups, particularly those that draw on his mechanical skills.
John Collings has been a Senior Station Officer with the brigade since 1967 and is very active in a wide variety of community organisations delivering fire safety education, and providing smoke alarm installation and battery-changing services. He has also delivered fire safety presentations for kindergartens and schools on a voluntary basis. Like Tony, he too supports St John and has been a relief ambulance driver for more than 25 years.
It’s worth noting that Tony and John are among three generations of the Collings family who are justifiably proud of their 238 years of combined service to the Taihape brigade. This includes their sons Michael, David and Aron, as well as their brother Hughie’s son Gary who have all served for many years in the Taihape brigade.
Rex Noble has an equally extensive record within the Mangaweka community, just 20 kilometres or so down the road from Taihape. In October he will be awarded a 50 Year Medal in recognition of his 50 years of service to the brigade, including 24 as Chief Fire Officer. He is very highly regarded by his fellow firefighters for his leadership, professionalism and ability to pass on knowledge and experience.
Bill Rackham has been a member of the Paeroa brigade for 46 years, 21 of them as the CFO. He played a major role in coordinating the response to the huge flood back in April in 1981. Over a two day period over 1,000 people had to be evacuated. Bill and other members of the brigade worked solidly for well over a week, including through Easter, as part of the civil defence emergency response. Since the early 90s, Bill has made sure all the homes in the township have working smoke alarms, and this is an ongoing effort. He has fund-raised, distributed and installed alarms throughout the town, being a central figure for fire safety education in the community.
Walter Russell has been part of the Whitianga Volunteer Brigade for 29 years and leads its operational support unit. He is the fire station manager and a valued member of the management committee. Walter has always been willing to take responsibility to get things done within the local emergency organisations and is a force to be reckoned with. In 1984 fire ripped through the Whitianga town hall, and this prompted Walter to join up the next day as a volunteer with the Fire Police. He also set up the St John ambulance response in the township – fund-raising to buy an ambulance and then become one of its first drivers. In 2012 he set up the Coromandel Rescue Helicopter Trust. He has given more than 50 years to the local Land Search and Rescue response from the mid-1950s.
Don Shanks set up the Mangatangi Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1972, and served as its Chief Fire Officer until he retired to Whakatane in 2012. Don was very much a ‘get out and get it done'. He was deeply concerned by the high crash rate on the section of State Highway 2 in the area. He was a driving force to the brigade becoming a first medical responder and also made sure they were proficient in road crash rescue to help deal with many accidents on the stretch of highway between Mangatawhiri and Maramaru. As well as fund-raising for cutting and rescue gear for the brigade, Don also campaigned for road improvements and road safety initiatives in the area. As a result of his efforts, transport authorities introduced speed reductions, advertising and road layout changes that greatly reduced the number of accidents.
"To all the families and friends of those being honoured here today, thank you."
"I am sure that for all of you there were times when you would rather have had one of these men at home when instead, they were responding to an emergency, training or providing other support to the brigade."
"Congratulations to you all." said Dave McFarlane, NZFS Commission Deputy Chairman.
From left: John Collings, Walter Russell, Bill Rackham, Tony Collings, Rex Noble, Don Shanks.
You must be logged in to post comments. Please log in (top right) or register.