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Gold Star for fire brigade’s ‘ultimate professional’

By Pam Ferla

Tairua fireman, Brian Hart, was awarded a 25-year service Gold Star at a ceremony on December 17 that highlighted Brian’s professionalism and the camaraderie in Tairua Volunteer Fire Brigade.

One hundred and thirty brigade members, family and supporters attended the function at Tairua Community Hall. Officials included Coromandel MP Scott Simpson, Thames Coromandel District Council Mayor Len Salt and past president of United Fire Brigades Association, Brian Watters.

There was a sense of friendship and humour throughout the evening, with much appreciation shown to Brian’s wife Linda and their family for their support. Voluntary Support Officer and Chief Fire Officer for Whitianga, Roly Chaney, said serving 25 years in the same brigade was an outstanding achievement and Brian has been “the ultimate professional”. Scott Simpson presented Brian with a Parliamentary Certificate of Appreciation and said Brian and Linda Hart had made a remarkable contribution to the community. Mayor Len Salt said communities like Tairua work so well because of those who do service in them. He presented Brian with a certificate of appreciation, on behalf of Thames Coromandel District Council.

Brian is currently senior station officer and is now retiring from active service. There was a standing ovation when Chris New said he’s done “an awesome job”, and announced Brian was awarded life membership of the brigade. MC for the evening, Belinda Wehrle, related how, as part of the brigade’s rope rescue team, Brian had “gallantly rescued a blonde who was stuck on a ledge at Shakespeare Cliff.” After alluding to the female’s gratitude to Brian she revealed, to much laughter, that the blonde was a Labrador dog that slobbered all over him with appreciation. The audience enjoyed a number of other stories of Brian’s experiences in the brigade.

Six other Tairua brigade members have achieved Gold Star since it was formed in 1963. They are Brian Cullen, Warwick Brooks, Chris New, Mike King, Rik Tawa and Mark Cory-Wright.

Incredible community When Brian moved from Paeroa to Tairua 27 years ago, the brigade’s fire chief, Warwick Brooks, recognised his potential to be part of the volunteer team and told him he had to join. Brian went to a practise night to check it out and decided it was something he wanted to do for the community (and, he quips, they had a bar). Training covered everything from dealing with motor vehicle accidents (MVA’s) to rescuing a cat stuck up a tree. He told Mercury Bay Informer that he probably didn’t realise all that was involved when he joined up.

“My first call was a very serious MVA. There are some tough situations to deal with and this is where the support of colleagues is important. Camaraderie is a big part of it and we look after each other. The support of our family is also important.

And the support we get from the community is incredible. I remember coming back from an accident and we discovered people had left pies for us at the station. I’m impressed with our community and also with the people in our brigade. They dedicate so much time to training and attending courses.”

Brian has seen lots of changes since he joined the brigade, especially in health and safety regulations. He points out that there is no difference between the expectations for a volunteer or for a permanent brigade member of Fire and Emergency NZ. He admits he has never had a desire to drive the fire engine, even as a youngster.

He was one of the brigade members who did a saucy act on stage to “Come on Baby Light My Fire”, in the Tairua Troubadours Show “The Four Seasons”. It was made more memorable when the town’s emergency fire siren went off just before one of their performances. They rushed to the callout, but returned in time for their rescheduled performance, much to the delight of the audience.

Brian and his wife Linda have lived in South Africa and Australia. A builder by trade, he spent time in the army and has also worked for the police. He also loves fishing and scuba diving and been an honorary fisheries officer, caring strongly about protection of the fisheries.

Linda spent 50 years as a nurse, including time as a practice nurse in Tairua and several years as a remote nurse in Australia including the flying doctors service. “I’ve met some wonderful people and made some great friends over my years in the brigade,” he reflects.

Caption: Fireman Brian Hart, and his wife Linda, at his Gold Star awards night at Tairua Community Hall.


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