Camaraderie will be biggest loss

Lookout Point Senior Firefighter Jeffrey Woodford (65) drove the fire engine for the last time on...
Lookout Point Senior Firefighter Jeffrey Woodford (65) drove the fire engine for the last time on Tuesday, after 47 years in the New Zealand Fire Service. Photo by Samantha Mcpherson.

Jeffrey Woodford will have to slow down and remember he isn't behind the wheel of the Lookout Point fire engine. The 65-year-old Senior Firefighter retired on Tuesday after 47 years in the New Zealand Fire Service. Of those, more than 20 were spent at Lookout Point Fire Station. Samantha Mcpherson caught up with Mr Woodford before he hung up his uniform for the last time.

Asking ex-tradies for advice about DIY projects while eating scones for morning tea is just one of many things Jeffrey Woodford will miss.

The 65-year-old Senior Firefighter retired on Tuesday (his 65th birthday) after 47 years in the New Zealand Fire Service.

''The numbers added up and the timing was right. I will miss the scones for morning tea, the sick fire humour, the jokes and working with a great bunch of guys and girls. They are so reliant. A lot of the firefighters are ex-tradies, so you can pick their brains about the best way to do a DIY project over the morning tea table. A lot of the guys had made a mess of something so they would ask how to fix it so they could do a better job next time,'' he said.

Mr Woodford, who spent more than 20 years at Lookout Point Fire Station, would cycle to work from Green Island every day.

''I have never lay in bed and thought `bugger it I am not going to come to work today'. I have really enjoyed it,'' he said.

Just before Mr Woodford turned 18, he applied for the firefighter job after he saw it advertised in the paper.

''In those days, if there was a job, you went and applied for it. They don't hire them that young nowadays. I went in one day, I was interviewed the next and a week later they gave me some second-hand gear and I was put in a fire engine without any training. But that has all changed now,'' he said.

When Mr Woodford started working, he didn't have any form of transport so he used his brother's motorbike before he saved ''a few pound notes'' and bought his own.

''I had a 1956 350 BSA which lasted one Dunedin winter. I got rid of it after that and bought a car with a heater,'' he said.

Mr Woodford did stints at all the fire stations but Lookout Point has always been his favourite.

''It's nice and handy. The old guys who built this in 1956 knew where to build fire stations,'' he said.

While technology has changed, a fire engine is a fire engine to Mr Woodford.

''You still have a hose and pumps. Firemen still have to go and get dirty. We didn't have computers when I started. We used to get a note every Friday with what was happening. Everything is done on a computer now. But the basics are still the same. I can send an email but that's about it,'' he said.

While it is not the ''flashest or warmest'' of jobs in Dunedin at 2am, Mr Woodford said knowing he was helping the community made it worthwhile.

For the past 10 years Mr Woodford has been taking care of the grounds at St Peter Chanel School. It is something he plans to keep doing, as well as travelling, spending time with family, gardening and helping restore fire trucks.

''That is going to be my Mondays. Some of the fire engines I worked on are retired but they are still going. I will keep looking after the school grounds and doing the odd job so it gets me out of the house to give my wife a break. I have to thank her a thousand times. I will easily fill in time,'' he said.

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