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Ready to respond... Tapanui volunteer firefighter Keith Falconer was awarded a Gold Star for 25 years of service. PHOTO: ASHLEIGH MARTIN

Tapanui volunteer firefighter Keith Falconer started volunteer firefighting 25 years ago, because the brigade was short on numbers.

Mr Falconer received a Gold Star Award for his 25 years’ service last weekend. He said it was humbling to receive the award and he was very grateful.

“I wasn’t going in it to get the honours or anything like that. It was just the fact that you were going to help people and these things come along and as I said in my speech, whether it’s two years or 25 years it’s all important,” Mr Falconer said.

Mr Falconer said he learnt a lot about himself by being a volunteer firefighter, including a sense of what one could and could not do.

“The community’s been good to me, I try to return it through this and I think you’ll find all the fire brigade members think sort of the same way really, and they’re a good bunch of people.”

He said the main change over the years was how the brigade now included accident and emergency services, meaning the brigade covered accidents and medical emergencies as well as fires.

“You also don’t overload your fire machines, there’s plenty of back-up these days and a good radio system.”

Mr Falconer said there were several callouts which had impacted him personally, but it was important not to dwell on them too much.

“It knocks you around for a couple of days perhaps, but the support from the New Zealand Fire Service is pretty up there now, so if you’ve got a bit of an issue they’ll be on the phone to you and get people to you.”

Mr Falconer said while the firefighters got hauled out of bed at all hours for various jobs, they always did their best.

While sometimes that might not be enough, that was simply down to the chain of events.

But more often the brigade had a win and “you feel very humbled by it”.

He said he thoroughly enjoyed being part of the volunteer brigade.

“It’s just a big extended family really.”