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Happy retirement ... Pukerau Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Fire Officer Geoff Soper and his wife, Sandy Soper, celebrate his retirement after being involved for the past 33 years.

Risking your life to save imprinted hands might sound crazy for some but for Geoff Soper it was the highlight of his 33-year career with the Pukerau Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Mr Soper battled the fires of the Gore arsonist in 2004 and retrieved the New Zealand Gold Guitar Awards’ Hands of Fame.

The hands were inside the Gore Country Music Club in Tamworth Lane, which was destroyed.

“We [Pukerau] supported Gore in fighting the arsonist fires.

“The hands were just absolutely covered in ash and rubble when we went in the next morning to get them out,” Mr Soper said.

After his 33-year involvement with the brigade and 16 years as chief fire officer, it was time to move on.

Mr Soper retired earlier this year but was proud of the direction in which the brigade was heading.

“I’m so proud at the moment of this brigade . . . There’s a lot of young local guys that’re coming through, which is great.”

Mr Soper joined the brigade in 1986.

“I wanted to do something and give back to my community too. I got involved.”

The scene of two trains crashing into each other at Waipahi in 1999 is something he would never forget.

“It was big, very messy and there was a lot of chemical spillage with that one,” he said.

Mr Soper received three trophies at Pukerau for firefighting competitions after vigorous training sessions in the 1990s.

“. getting them was a major feat. It was a proud day,” Mr Soper said.

While he experienced many highs over the years, they did not come without hardship.

“The car accidents and seeing the families involved has always been the hard part.”

It was the people he would miss the most as he stepped away.

“The camaraderie. That’s what I’m really going to miss.”

He was grateful to his family for allowing him to be so involved.

“My family – Sandy, Laurel, Calvin, Ben and Flynn – have been great support. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”