Recognition of 50 years as firefighter

Volunteer firefighter Colin Astle: "‘You look after your buddy and he looks after you.’’ PHOTO:...
Volunteer firefighter Colin Astle: "‘You look after your buddy and he looks after you.’’ PHOTO: JESSICA WILSON

A Brighton firefighter has been recognised for 50 years of service.

Senior firefighter Colin Astle (73) will be presented with the double gold star award at an afternoon tea on Saturday.

Mr Astle joined the Dunedin Fire Brigade in January 1970 and retired 47 years later.

So far, he has also clocked up about 27 years as a volunteer at the Brighton station.

During his role in the permanent brigade, he worked at all stations in Dunedin, including the two rescue stations — Willowbank and Lookout Point.

Firefighters from rescue stations attend motor vehicle accidents and medical events, as well as fire calls, and have different equipment, such as spreaders and cutters.

Mr Astle spent about 16 years at Lookout Point.

‘‘In the end I got sick and tired of cutting out dead [and] injured people . . . so I had a break.’’

The move to another station ‘‘did me good’’, he said.

Back then, there was an expectation to ‘‘toughen up’’ whereas now there was plenty of support for firefighters.

He had more injuries when working as a plumber and drainlayer than when he was a firefighter.

‘‘You’re looked after. You can’t go anywhere by yourself, you’ve got to have someone with you.

‘‘You look after your buddy and he looks after you.’’

The main changes he had noticed over the years were the improvements in communication and health and safety.

When he joined, firefighters could use their breathing apparatus only when instructed by the chief officer.

The uniform and truck had also improved with the times.

Mr Astle said the worst fires he attended were house fires because of the impact they had on children.

‘‘Kids have got to feel safe somewhere and I think it affects them for the rest of their lives.’’

He was a huge advocate for smoke alarms and had seen many lives saved because of them.

As a volunteer, he attended more medical events and often dealt with people in the community whom he knew.

‘‘When things go right, it’s wonderful.

‘‘When things don’t, and there’s been a few of them, you’ve just got to get on with it.’’

Mr Astle said he enjoyed the camaraderie of the brigade and had worked with some wonderful people.

‘‘And still do.’’

Mr Astle will be given his award by United Fire Brigade Association president James Walker. Brighton Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer Grant Tapp will present Mr Astle with a UFBA life honorary medal.

JESSICA.WILSON@thestar.co.nz

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