Experience, long service honoured

Thornbury Volunteer Fire Brigade Gold Star recipients Linton Strang (left) and Graham Strang celebrated their achievement at a function in Thornbury on Saturday night.

EARNING a 25-year Gold Star service medal with the Thornbury Volunteer Fire Brigade didn’t come cheap for Graeme Strang and cousin Linton Strang, who faced being dragged out of bed in the middle of a freezing night, putting the business on hold or having meals go cold.

Graeme and Linton Strang, of the Thornbury Volunteer Fire Brigade, were presented with Gold Star medals for 25 years’ service, as well as life memberships in Thornbury on Saturday night.

“You get up at stupid-o’clock in the morning to go to incidents. Sometimes it’s not that pleasant. But it’s your little bit for the community as well.

“The [rural] communities rely on the volunteers — not just us either. It includes all the other services as well.”

United Fire Brigade Association past president James Walker said just 6% of volunteer firefighters would receive a Gold Star medal.

Both recipients said the camaraderie within the brigade and the pleasure of serving the community was what kept them going for so long.

“If communities didn’t have volunteers, they wouldn’t happen.

“It’s the Kiwi thing to do isn’t it?”

While they felt like age was starting to gain on them, they admitted they were not as quick as they used to be but knew there was always some task they could do during a call-out, leaving the heavy or more physical tasks to the younger brigade members.

“You can keep the young ones coming through and guide them.”

Graeme, who has lived in the area most of his life and owns the Waimatuku Garage, said he ended up in the brigade after he was roped into a competition team.

But it took several years for him to complete some of his training.

“It took forever because every time there was a Phase 1 course on, there were competitions on the same weekend, so I couldn’t let the team down.”

Linton has been with the Thornbury brigade for most of the 25 years, but also completed a couple of brief stints in Queenstown, where he volunteered with the Queenstown brigade while also working as a boilerman on the SS Earnslaw.

Life memberships were also awarded to the pair during the evening.

“They can’t get rid of us now,” Graeme said.

Thornbury chief fire officer Andrew Hall said 25 years’ service was quite an achievement.

He was impressed with Graeme’s commitment to the service considering his busy lifestyle and heavy commitments.

“He just pulls that shutter down and comes to the call out. He’s very unselfish. He’s been making the truck in the last bit, when we’ve been a bit short. He’s always the second or third best attendee to call-outs.”

Linton was also a reliable brigade member and the Queenstown call-outs had developed a wealth of experience for him while he was there.

Having people with a long service record meant the brigade always had experienced members attending emergencies, he said.

Other medals and certificates awarded at the evening:
3 Year Certificates:
Brittany Stuart, Craig Stevenson.
5 Year Service Medals: Dean van Brecht, Lyndal Gill.
2 Year Silver Bars: (Service beyond 5 years)Black, Roderick Hall, Mark Peterson, Hannah Hazlett, Russell Hardman, Neil Linscott, Laurence Fraser, Alistair Simpson, Robert Shearing, Brendan Willis.
2 Year Gold Bars: (Service beyond 25 years) Tony Carmichael, Robin O’Donnell, Nathan Ronald, Colin Hitchcock, Andrew Hall.