Gold Star first for brigade

Past president of the United Fire Brigade Association Daryl Forrest (centre) presents John Kee...
Past president of the United Fire Brigade Association Daryl Forrest (centre) presents John Kee with his Gold Star for 25 years' service to the Clutha Valley Fire Brigade. Photo supplied.
Senior Station Officer John Kee's first callout as a volunteer firefighter was to a fire at the Finegand Freezing Works in 1989.

Twenty-five years later, he has become the first member of the 15-strong Clutha Valley Fire Brigade to receive a Gold Star for 25 years' service.

Mr Kee said he felt nervous on Saturday night as he waited to receive the honour.

Despite his nerves, he was still proud of his achievement.

''I felt quite proud, I guess. Proud for the brigade as well. Gets the brigade a bit of publicity, which we don't get a hell of a lot of.''

The brigade, based in Clydevale, was an auxiliary for the Balclutha brigade, and attended about 20 callouts a year, he said.

Now 69, Mr Kee joined the brigade in 1989, aged 44, after talking to firefighters in the brigade who told him they were short of members.

''I thought I better get in there ... It probably is an older age to join. I wish I had joined earlier.''

Being in the service had provided fellowship, enjoyment and a sense of doing something for the community, and had made him more safety conscious.

During the 25 years, the hardest days had been attending bad car crashes.

''Having a few bad car accidents knocks the fellas around. In the country nine out of 10 times you actually know the people [involved in the crash],'' he said.

In contrast, his best moment was receiving his Gold Star on Saturday.

His previous experience as a casual farm worker had made duties as a volunteer firefighter easier.

''Most people did not mind if you take off, depending where you were. I seemed to get to most of them [callouts].''

Clutha Valley Fire Brigade Station Officer Richard Hunter said Mr Kee had been a knowledgeable and valuable member of the brigade, and a role model.

''In an event he keeps a very cool head. You can rely on him to lead well. He is a very good, unassuming leader.''

About 150 people attended the evening on Saturday to support Mr Kee, including firefighters and residents from the Clutha Valley area, along with a large number of Fire Service members from Dunedin.

Mr Hunter said nine members of the Clutha Valley brigade, including Mr Kee, received honours on the night as well.

''We are rapt. We have been waiting for this for a long time. It was a big night for the brigade in general.''

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