Bringing babies into the world. Helping those in need, or in pain. Holding the hands of those departing this world. As he clocks up 25 years of service with the New Zealand Fire Brigade, John Allen of the Awhitu Rural Fire Force looks to have experienced the full spectrum of joy and heartbreak.
25 years of adventure
So what lead John to become involved with the volunteer fire service? “For me, it was an extension of working in an area and living in a community. Firefighting is not just about fighting fires. You get involved in any emergency that happens in the community. It was a great way to meet people,” explains John.
The fire service isn’t his only community role. John has also been a volunteer ambulance officer for 20 years, and with job postings on Kawau Island, Whakapapa Village and Franklin, he’s seen a lot!
“You end up carrying a lot of memories around with you,” said John. Being involved with an operation to rescue the Army on Mt Ruapehu stands out as one of the many memorable moments in his volunteer career to date. But it’s the need to make a difference in people’s lives that seems to drive this local legend to continue volunteering. “To fight a fire or help someone in need, is a personal challenge which gives me personal satisfaction. When the pager goes off, it’s an automatic response to go and do your best,” adds John.
One of the biggest changes he’s seen in his career, is new legislation which will see the combining of the urban and rural fire services into one team. “Volunteer fire fighters have carried out a lot of operations in the past without any protection from the law. Under the new act, they are protected. I foresee better training and equipment to carry out operations to a better standard, producing a better service for the public.”
For anyone considering getting involved with the volunteer fire service, John advises to simply head along to your local fire station, introduce yourself, and see if it’s right for you. “You’ll get training and adventure right on your own door step! Become part of a great team and make a difference.”
An honours evening was held in Awhitu last month to celebrate John’s 25 years of service. In attendance was Victoria Cross recipient Willie Apiata and John was presented with the illustrious Gold Star.
Our communities rely heavily on the courage and commitment of our volunteer services. It’s nice knowing that local legends like John have got our back. Congrats!
Caption: Local volunteer legend John Allen encourages others to experience adventure right on their own door step.