NEW ZEALAND FOREST SERVICE FIRE CONTROL STAFF 1947 UNTIL 1 APRIL 1987

 

I did intend writing a short history on the people who made up the New Zealand Forest Service Fire Control section some time ago but as with many things it just didn't get done. Now, with our finish date fast approaching it’s now or never. The pen portraits of the fire people are mine only but I have called on the memories of several people to help out, particularly with the early Chief Fire Control Officers (CFCOs). If I have missed anybody, or anything out, my apologies in advance.

 

Let’s start with Head Office Fire Control.

 

Lionel Bailey 1947

Following the 1946 Taupo fires, the then Director‑General of Forests decided that a CFCO should be appointed at Head Office. He considered the position so important that the O/C Kaingaroa was eventually approved for the position and so Lionel Bailey became the first CFCO.

 

Jim McKessar 1947

Starting off as a fireman in Christchurch, Jim joined the Army and became Firemaster at Burnham. At the time Lionel Bailey was scouting around looking for a technical man to be his Deputy, and Jim got the nod. Serving under [CFCOs] Bailey, Wright and Blake, the difficult task of getting an effective fire control organisation underway became his major task. In the 1950s Jim left to become the first Superintendent of the Fire Service College at Island Bay where I met him, he had a long and.distinguished career with New Zealand Fire Service.

 

John McDonald and Bert Mueller 1948

Remember at this time there were no Conservancy forest fire or fire equipment officers. A chance meeting in Wellington between Jim McKessar and John McDonald ended up with John being offered a fire equipment job in either Karioi or Tapanui. He took the Karioi one, and started a career with New Zealand Forest Service that involved dragging a reluctant NZFS out of the knapsack and shovel era, and into the modern high pressure pump and technical equipment period of change. John built up-to-date fire depots on every plantation forest within the Conservancy, and trained a host of forestry people (including myself). He could fix most things from a dented trombone pump barrel to an IEL HF radio, and did so at any hour of the day or night. The scourge of station OIC’s, John, with the backing of a subdued Conservancy office, threatened or browbeat anyone who didn't look after the fire equipment to his high standard.

 

The Chief Fire Officer for the Waipa brigade was a chap by the name of Bert Mueller during 1948. It was a volunteer brigade so when the job came up as conservancy fire equipment officer, Bert was the man. A different temperament to John McDonald, Bert got on with the job and he had the Conservancy running smoothly within a reasonable time.

 

These first two fire equipment officers were the building blocks within the Conservancies upon which today's organisation was founded. They did a grand job under often trying conditions, working long hours with little reward except for the knowledge that the work had to be done. John went on to become NZFS’s first Fire Equipment Inspector for New Zealand and he brought to that position the same enthusiasm with which he tackled everything. The hose testing equipment and standards John developed are still the basis for accepting any hose for service to this day.

 

Bill Wright 1949

I can remember.Bill Wright with the Taupo fires of 1946 still fresh in his mind lecturing at F.T.C. on the danger of backburning. What he said then still holds good today 'when the counter fire meets the main fire the resulting conflagration can often cause greater problems than you had orginally'. A forester from the old country Bill lived to a good age after retirement.

 

Roly Blake

From District Ranger Kaikohe to Senior Ranger Rotorua, then CFCO H.O. Roly was only a short time in the chair before going on to Southland as Principal Ranger.

 

Charlie Bridgeman

As the O/C Golden Downs, Charlie conceived the Woodsman training scheme. After his term as CFCO he transferred as Principal Ranger Canterbury.

 

Archie Taylor

Probably our first real fireman. Archie had experience in every facet of fire fighting from the Blitz in London during World War II to Civil Aviation Crash Fire, then Forestry fire in Southland. As Deputy CFCO to Chas. Bridgeman, Archie started the modernisation.of NZFS fire fighting.equipment. The post war Army scout car fire engines that had proved so successfully were becoming obsolete and something new was required.

 

With the help of Ron Weatherhead from Engineering and others, Fire Control resisted the temptation to take the cheapest vehicle and as a result the International fire engine fleet came into being. The bodies were built by GN Hales at Taita, and these stood up to some fearful hammering over their years of good service.

 

There were many other equipment changes during Archies term either as Deputy or Chief. The MK1 Wajax pump arrived, butyl rubber pillow tanks turned metal trucks into somewhat unstable watercarriers, and rubber lined hose arrived on the scene. Conservancy fire equipment officers at last had wheels, the Bedford A2 was a boneshaker but very reliable and what incredible mileages they did with those dedicated fire officers behind the wheel.

 

Archie died suddenly of brain cancer in 1966 and NZFS was the poorer for his passing.

 

Arthur Baystings and Cyril Coppins

About a year after the two North Island men were appointed, Arthur and Cyril arrived on the scene both from the wage worker ranks. Arthur was a great training officer having a persuasive manner. He developed the Golden Downs Fire Depot and eventually the whole Conservancy came under his wing.

 

Cyril Coppins claim to fame came from America; I read in some old fire magazine that NZFS had been early starters in the aerial fire retardant dropping field, one Cyril Coppins had been dropping Sodium Alginate from a fixed wing aircraft about the same time as they started in the U.S.A. The trials were not successful in New Zealand, the comments being that the fire could have been extinguished by hand quicker and certainly cheaper. In retrospect, Archie Taylor arranged those early thickened water trials but Cyril got the credit.

 

Cyril died of undulating fever about 1961 leaving the Canterbury job vacant.

 

Harry Meyer

A Baystings’ trained man, Harry took over Southland Conservancy from Archie Taylor when he transferred to Head Office. Harry got on with the job in his own quiet way and eventually everything came right. Some large indigenous fires in the early days severely tested the organisation. Harry had a keen sense of humour and was quite a personality at the meetings and conferences held at irregular intervals. Harry also takes credit for starting the first forestry fire pump competitions but there were others who claimed that distinction.

 

Merve Jonas

Merve was working as a bulldozer driver at Woodhill after giving up being a mechanic. He gravitated into the fire business in 1960 and retired 22 years later. During Merve’s tenure as SFCO, the great give away of fire equipment to local authorities began, and Auckland Conservancy were to the fore in this. The long distances involved in getting from forest to forest were always a problem in Auckland and Merve was the first to get out of the heavy servicing vehicle and into a light pickup much to the envy of others in the group.

 

Merve retired to Murawai in 1982 then moved further north to an isolated property by the sea.

 

Bill Girling Butcher

Bill is still considered to be the 'father' of NZFS fire control by most people. Following war service, Bill joined NZFS, and eventually became D.R. Kaikohe. He later moved to Kaingaroa as Fire Control Officer (FCO) where I first met him. In those days there was little or no controlled burning in the forest except for clearing fire breaks. The half mile strip had just been felled but nobody was prepared to give Bill the OK to go ahead and burn it so, after much procrastination, Bill and Stan Robson went out early one evening by themselves and lit up a fair area. Fortunately or unfortunately, a lookout spotted the fire and all sorts of stuff hit the fan after that, but the outcome was that Bill and Stan were allowed to continue burning the strip in later days, but this time with a gang of men.

 

AS D.R. Ohakune, Bill had the odd run in with John McDonald. An ongoing one I remember was the triangular fire signs which should have been brought in each winter for servicing. In Ohakune they never were; Bill claimed they were out early for the next season.

 

Following Arch Taylor to H.O. as CFCO in 1968, Bill encouraged the progress in improving equipment and fire control techniques. Three major innovations were introduced during this period that were to have a profound effect on forestry's fire fighting capability. These were the monsoon helibucket, Fire Trol, and a little later aerial fire lighting. The bucket and fire retardants allowed us to hit the front of a fire with safety for the first time. On retirement in 1979, Bill was awarded the Queens Fire Service Medal for services rendered but in reality his achievements for forestry were greater than any medal could represent.

 

Tom Moir 1959

After distinguished war service, Tom joined the New Zealand Forest Service and worked at Waiotapu before moving to F.T.C. as 2IC. In 1952 Tom became the first O/C of the Kaingaroa Woodsmens School and in later years participated in the first of the half mile strip controlled burns at Kaingaroa forest.

 

Tom became deputy to Arch Taylor (and later Bill Girling Butcher) in 1959. He immediately wrote up a series of information booklets and fire manuals most of which are still in use today. Training being part of Tom's upbringing, fire courses for Rangers were started at F.T.C. Tom would stand for hours reading lectures which were interesting in content but lacking somewhat in delivery. I worked with Tom during this period on several projects and became a firm believer in his philosophy of life. Tom died of cancer at Christmas 1975 and the Service lost a real gentlemen.

 

Norm Smith 1962

It is fitting to bring Norm in at this stage as he started as Merve Jonas’ assistant back in 1962. Another fully qualified mechanic, Norm took to the technical side of fire equipment servicing as if he had been born to it. There wasn't anything be couldn't fix, improve or shift sideways in the fire business and within a short time everything was sorted out and in its right place, monthly at his place.

 

Being the unofficial deer culler for Woodhill.forest and sometime toheroa checker on Muruwai beach did tend to interfere with the job at times but the work always got done. When Merve retired in 1982, it was natural for Norm to step into the position. His first task was to try and find all that fire gear that had been loaned out to local authorities and then try and service it. A never ending job.

 

Stan Robson 1950

No history of fire control would be complete without mentioning Stan Robson. Starting at Kaingaroa in the 50s, Stan took over the daunting task of getting the fire equipment straightened out there. It took some doing but eventually everything was in working condition, even the Paramount Cub pumps would work  (for Stan not me). A logical man Stan worked out standard methods of starting each type of pump we had. If that didn't work do the procedures over again as usually you had done something wrong. The Robson flamethrower was invented by Stan from old fire extinguisher bodies, and he made many other items of mechanical equipment.

 

Stan continually refused a staff position because he would have lost much money in the changeover but the Service never had a more dedicated person working for them. I heard one CFCO mention once, "It doesn't matter who the Fire Control Officer is at Kaingaroa as long as Stan Robson is there". Stan retired to Maketu Beach in the late 70s, and is still there.

 

Bob Collier, Jim Shaw

 

Bob and Jim were Arthur Baysting's trained men. Both were picked from the wage worker ranks as having potential in the fire field and given a chance in the fire depot. Bob went on to become SFCO in Canterbury. He was there during the Hanmer fire and the blowdown of trees before that. The organisation of fire teams and equipment were part of the job for fire control in those days. The still operational High Country Fire Fighting team were Bob’s brainchild, and he spent many a weekend training them.

 

Jim took over when Arthur Baystings retired. The Fire Store at Golden Downs was getting quite old by then, and Jim arranged for the new modern complex at Tapawera to be built. A pioneer in the aerial fire fighting and fire lighting fields Jim must have lit an awful lot fires in his time.

 

Peter Amner

Starting as a Woodsman in 1954 at Kaingaroa, transferred to Esk before being appointed to the then CFD at Karioi. While on route to the new appointment, I was told that both CFD staff (John Smith and Peter Jones) had resigned and joined the Wanganui Fire Brigade. Didn't do much for my self confidence but John McDonald came up from Palmerston North and showed me how to break the ice on the hose trough and scrub hose in the snow. When the CFD shifted to Palmerston North, I went with it, and when John became the first FEI, I managed to step into his position.

 

In 1978 a unique opportunity appeared to become forest fire advisor to the Government of India. A fascinating two years travelling India and the world before I returned to New Zealand, and the DFCO, a position it looks like I will hold until the old NZFS goes out the back door.

 

Graeme Dolan

No history of fire control would be complete without mentioning Graeme. After spending time in Rotorua and Canterbury Conservancies, Graeme joined fire control in 1971 taking over the office management. Having a forest management background and a retentive memory made him invaluable to the CFCO's he worked under. Graeme is probably one of the most widely known forest officers in the Service; he spent many an annual leave travelling around visiting forests and people.

 

Ray Kingi

Ray started as a Woodsman like many others in fire control, worked at Eyrewell for a time before joining Bert at Rotorua in the CFD. At Whaka, Ray learnt the basics of equipment maintenance before transferring to Westland as FCO in the 70s. The Coast was a difficult assignment and Ray was left on his own for many of the years there but to his credit he now has one of the best CFDs in the country.

 

Roy Knight

Roy’’s been in Canterbury now for so long, I can't remember just where he came from. But Roy was one of the first Woodsmen out of Golden Downs, and he joined the fire team in the early days. Working under Cyril Coppins, Bob Collier, Win and John, Roy has been the backbone of the Canterbury Conservancy fire equipment, and he probably can say without fear of contradiction that his gear was the best in New Zealand. Mind you, others may disagree. The new CFD at Rangiora was set up by Roy and John Ferguson, and is probably one of the best in the country.

 

Mike Furby

A Woodsman in 1967, Mike spent some time at Eyrewell before moving to Tapanui. He must like the place because he's been there ever since. Mike is another of the perfectionist group that developed in the 70s, never satisfied unless the gear was spot on he took a personal interest in maintaining the equipment. On the short list for the fire job in India (where he would have done well), Mike has settled in Tapanui.

 

Kerry Hilliard

Another Woodsman, Kerry arrived at CFD Palmerston North as a lame duck having injured his back in a work accident, (swing through the trees on vines) Kerry learnt to pack hose the hard way as John [McDonald] always tipped the first few hose packs out on any new chum. Taking a liking to the work, Kerry moved to Southland under Harry [Meyer] then Rotorua with Bert. Eventually returning at Palmerston North when I left for India, then following me overseas to take charge of the Fire Training Centre at Kulumavu after my two year stint. On returning to New Zealand, Kerry was appointed SFCO Rotorua but shortly after became FEI when John [McDonald] retired.

 

In the Department reorganisation, Kerry has been appointed CFCO for DOC and now has the headaches ahead of forming a completely new fire group from the ashes of the old NZFS. And he will do it too!

 

Win Leef

Win took a job in the bush at Kaingaroa and later moved into the fire depot to help Stan [Robson]. He learnt well and when Stan retired, he naturally took over. Win was a natural at controlled burning having good teachers and with that and fire equipment servicing behind him, he flew into the Canterbury SFCO job when Bob [Collier] retired. Win's practical commonsense approach to every problem has done much to improve equipment and fire fighting techniques in NZFS and, when Kerry moved on from Rotorua to Palmerston North, Win moved back north from where he will move further north to his farm on 31 March 1987.

 

Keith Granger

Keith came in from the wage worker ranks at Kaingaroa; he took a liking to maintaining fire equipment and became very good at it. His work was recognised when he transferred to Tapawera under Jim [Shaw] and Geof [Hildreth], and later, when Win [Leef] became SFCO at Rotorua, he made the move back to the Conservancy as FCO.

 

With the changeover to Forest Corporation, it looks like Keith will be running the main CFD for that organisation at Kaingaroa.

 

Geof Hildreth

Following Woodsmen training in 1966, Geof went to Ngaumu for a short while before accepting a position in fire control in the Nelson Conservancy office. He later moved to Tapawera and has been running the CFD there ever since. Geof is an inventive fellow and space doesn't allow me to write down all of the pieces of equipment he made, or improved on. I must mention the hose flaking machine (with Jack Calder) and the new design monsoon bucket that looks to have potential. Geof was told by Neill Cooper that he should put his ideas on paper and send them into the suggestion's committee.  Since then we have been flooded with ideas and money has been paid out for several. Well done Geof.

 

Tony Stewart

A 1966 Kaingaroa Woodsman, Tony went to Gwavas where I first met him. He had a thing about old bombs from memory and had an old Vauxhall car that took a mighty thrashing. Tony transferred to CFD Palmerston North with me, and later worked for Kerry before getting the SFCO job when Kerry went to India. Apart from being a good serviceman, Tony's main claim to glory was at the meal table. I remember after a massive three course meal at the Tikokino Hotel one night, Tony breasted the bar, ordered a jug of beer and two pies please. The owners could not believe it especially when he had two packets of chips later in the evening for a snack.

 

Tony will join the new DOC as North Island fire manager.

 

John Barnes

John started at Golden Downs as a wage worker in the 70s and was appointed to staff in 1974. He gained valuable experience at Kaingaroa CFD before taking over as SFCO at Christchurch when Win came north.

John is an unflappable person who takes things in his stride. He established a good working relationship with his staff and all those he works with.

 

John takes over as South Island Fire Manager with the Department of Conservation.

 

Lindsay Golding

Bill Girling Butcher spotted Lindsay while he was working at Waitarere forest, and recommended I take him on at Palmerston North CFD. He came over in 1977 and proved to be an excellent choice. Lindsay has the personality to get on with people and was a great help in the new image fire officer we were trying to foster in those early days. He had a natural flair for controlled burning and was excellent to work with on a flamethrower.

 

John Ferguson

Not exactly sure just where Ferg appeared from but he has worked for NZFS for a long time. As assistant to Roy at Rangiora, Ferg took on the training role when all these other fire authorities decided they needed assistance to improve their fire fighting capability. I used him several times at F.T.C. on courses and he always did well. We had the greatest difficulty in getting Ferg on staff but he finally made it in time to go out with the NZFS. It was worth it Ferg.

 

Trevor Bullock

Trevor turned up at Hokitika as Ray Kingi’s assistant some years ago. He worked well there and eventually moved to Kaingaroa, and into the fire control group there. Another person with potential in the training field, Trev produced some very good overheads for various lectures.

 

Ron Wastney

First recollection of Ron was him being down the coast somewhere near Hari Hari I think. Anyway, he transferred to Tapanui into the CFD there, and has proved to be an excellent fire.equipment serviceman ever since.

 

Neill Cooper

Came into HO as DCFCO after Tom Moir died. A previous Officer‑in‑Charge of the F.T.C., Neill improved the training courses conducted by fire control. When Bill retired in 1979, Neill stepped into the CFCO position. Probably the most significant happenings during this period was the formation of the Fire Engine Committee which eventually came up with a new concept engine to replace the old International Fleet. Some 46 new appliances were built from 1983 to 1986 which was quite an achievement.

 

Murray Dudfield

Murray transferred from Wairau in Nelson Conservancy to SFCO Southland after Barry Hawker.moved on. Murray moved his office to Invercargill and started work on the economics of our fire protection business, something that had not been attempted by a SFCO before.

 

There it is: a very brief history of our fire control group. I know there are mistakes in it but time (25 March) did not allow me to check many details. I have missed some people who did not serve very long in fire control and they deserve mention here. Stu Rata and Steve Linnell from Auckland Conservancy, Greg Potts, Mike Sullivan, Peter Biddle, Rod Stricket, Bruce Bancroft, Ian Imrie and of course Fred Corfield from Rotorua Conservancy, Ian Millman from Palmerston North and Max Palmer from Nelson. Laurie Benseman who started the fire job on the West Coast and who later died in a logging accident certainly rated a mention, as did Lin Croft, the first and only woman we employed. Barry Bowater, Fred Bold and Barry Hawker from Southland have also missed out but all certainly made a contribution. Time and space did not allow me to mention the Kaingaroa fire officers but Jack Walker will be the last of these.

 

A nostalgic and sad period as I sit here in fire control with Forestry as we know it rapidly crumbling all around. Even the Gods were against us bringing the rains in February thus shortening the fire season so we couldn't at least go out with a decent fire. Hopefully through the medium of the Forest and Rural Fire Association of New Zealand we will still be able to keep in contact.

 

Best wishes for the future to you all.

 

Peter Amner

Fire Control

25 March 1987

 


TALL TAILS AND TRUE?

 

JOHN McDONALDS BIKE

 

Many of you will remember the layout of Karioi Forest, it didn't change much from the 50's until the new office was built about 1977. There was a two man hut converted into an office at the entrance gate, the fire station was about 50m further on and the mechanical workshop was 100m away on the left. Between these buildings meandered a small stream that ended in a pond beside the fire station.

 

Karioi Fire Station in the early 1950’s – McDonald family collection

 
 

 


Get the picture? Neatly trimmed hedges and lawns fronted by a Douglas Fir hedge against the main road.

 

The married quarters were about a kilometer away, across the main road, up a long narrow drive. There were seven houses in a row made from knocked down Army huts Everything was second-hand in those days even the fire engine was an ex-Army scout car. There were paddocks around the houses, and one or two people kept house cows until a regular milk delivery from Ohakune started. The soil was volcanic and almost anything would grow. By digging a deep hole with a crowbar, filling it with manure and planting one carrot or parsnip seed on top produced spectacular specimens; something you could nonchalantly invite the neighbour over with his wheelbarrow to pick up a carrot.

 

But this is a story about John McDonald's bike so I will press on.

 

The Karioi mechanical workshop was the biggest in the Conservancy in its day and it produced a crop of practical jokers that took some beating. You always opened the workshop door with care as often as not it was wired to a Ford model T coil that gave you a nasty shock. Ted Walden, Bob Youngman, Charlie Stevens and later Ivan Morton were all workshop employees at one time or another.

 

Across the way was the fire station where John McDonald was the fire equipment officer, always good for playing a practical joke on, provided you didn't push him too far. John had had his share of electric shocks, his bike hidden, you name it, over the years until he was wary of anything to do with the mechanics. With the main trunk railway line running through the middle of Karioi forest, and before the introduction of diesel electric locomotives, coal burning steam engines were used. These caused many fires, so many in fact that the forestry used to have a workman follow each train on a bike or railway jigger putting out the small fires started by the engine. It was not uncommon to record 70 significant fires each month at Karioi during the 50s and 60s.

 

‘With so many call outs, John McDonald, always a forward thinker had devised a speedy method of getting from his house to the fire station during off-duty hours. John had bought a bike, and during evenings or weekends on hearing the siren, John would jump on and pedal furiously to the fire station, crossing the main road looking neither left or right. Approaching the destination, John would place his hand on the bike seat and push the bike ahead leaving him free to run into the engine shed, with only a pause to check his watch as each run was timed. On return from the fire the bike would be retrieved from wherever it had ended up, dusted off and ridden home.

 

It was lunchtime on a working day that the call came. Another railway fire so the siren was sounded. Within minutes John astride trusty bike arrived, and performed his bike separation act. John gets into fire engine, bike careers off, and all is go. It took 3 hours to get that particular fire out, so a tired dirty fire crew arrived back and had the engine restocked with gear and equipment before knocking off for the day. At go-home time, John wandered around to the back of the fire station to where his bike usually ended up after its riderless plunge across the yard, but no bike. A search further afield proved fruitless. Then light dawned. 'The mechanics'. Carefully opening the workshop door, each mechanic was confronted in turn, but all denied any knowledge so there the matter had to be left for the day.

 

The next day was Friday and after further interrogation of the mechanics, amidst threats and some shouting, the situation was fast becoming serious. The O/C intervened, quietly telling the mechanics to give the bike back. They didn't have it. Relationships between fire and mechanical were at a critical stage, a serious situation on a small station. Wives were taking sides in the dispute.

 

By Wednesday the following week the station was evenly divided, those saying the mechanics should give the bike back, and those saying they shouldn't as it was a good joke. There were one or two free thinkers who thought the bike was stolen, but they couldn't explain why or how, so they were ignored.

 

The Karioi HQ gardener was an old Maori chap by the name of Mutu Heriamia. Mutu mowed the lawns, tended the gardens, and kept the small stream and pond clear of weeks and debris. Mutu solved the missing bike dilemma by deciding on Thursday that it was time to clear the pond between the fire station and the mechanical workshops. Mutus rake struck something metal’,and the dripping shape of John McDonalds bike was dragged to the surface.

 

Needless to say the mechanics had a field day, and the pro fire station faction were on the back foot for a while, but all eventually settled down. And the schoolchildren in the bus shelter on the main road could still expect a spectacular sight as John peddled furiously across the main road (looking neither left nor right) responding to the station fire siren aboard that famous bike.

 

THE KITCHEN FIRE

 

It's not that many years ago that Erua Forest in the King Country was a thriving little mixed plantation/indigenous forest. Local practice at the time was to underplant cutover natural forest with exotic species such as Ch. lawsoniana, P.patula, P.contorta and other unlikely varieties. Each morning the forest ranger would line the men up along the bush edge, each armed with a spade and large bundles of trees. on the given word each man moved forward to plant the young exotic seedlings in small clearings amongst the remnant natural forest. Of course in practice, the men moved into the bush just enough to be out of sight, planted the whole bundle of trees in one hole then relaxed in a sunny spot for a time before going out to the firebreak to get more seedlings. Those people driving past Erua Forest today can still see the results of this silvicultural regime from that past era.

 

But this is a story about a fire so lets get on with it.

 

Erua Forest had a small married community with several forestry houses and a single men's camp with two man huts and a cookhouse. The station fire engine for protecting the forest and the buildings was a converted Army scout car carrying 800 gallons of water with a small PTO driven pump. The Quad tanker, as it was called, didn't carry very much hose, but what it did have was ready for instant action. On each side of the vehicle was a box containing 100 feet of hose, flaked on one side and rolled on the bight the other. Bight hose is rolled from the middle of the hose, so that both male and female couplings are on the outside and held in the persons hand as he rolled the hose out. He could then couple the female end to the pump, attach a branch to the male end, and rush off to the fire. Such was the theory.

 

 

It was nearly midday and the Ranger's wife was cooking lunch on the stove when the fat caught fire. She did the right thing, and turned the power off, then called the office for the fire engine as the fire was burning up the curtains. As luck would have it, the Fire Officer from Karioi was inspecting the equipment that day, so it was a quick response to the station clerks SHOUT that there was a fire in Mrs so-and-so's house. It made a fine sight with an Erua leading hand driving, and Karioi fire officer on the back winding the hand siren, disappearing in the direction of the married quarters. Adrenaline was high.

 

 

Text Box: Quad tanker – McDonald family collectionNow the leading hand had never been to a forest fire before let alone a house fire but his companion being a fire officer must know the score. Anyway, he was shouting plenty of orders which the leading hand couldn't hear over the roar of the fire engines motor anyway. Over the main road and up the drive, but the kitchen is on the far side of the house so a hose line will be needed to get the water there. No trouble, fire officer is pulling the flaked house out but it isn't long enough. Back for the hose rolled on the bight, run to where the flaked hose ended and bowl the hose out. What to do now. He has both couplings in his hand, gives the male to the leading hand with the order "take it around to the right of that building", he goes to the left. Seconds later flushed and panting they confront each other on the far side of the house each trailing the hose and a coupling in hand. What to do but join them together and shout "water on".

 

They didn't have video in those days so the shouting, confusion and recriminations have been lost in the mists of time, but I do know that the housewife put the fire out by herself and had the good sense to open the back door before our intrepid duo kicked it down to gain entry. She must still be laughing.

 

Peter Amner

Fire Control

1986