Driver Dennis answers fire call

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Dennis Dixon drives trucks for a living and loves vintage gear.

But curiously, he has never had the inkling to get one of his own.

But now he has, sort of.

When the crew building the new Ashburton Fire Museum recently discussed the possibility of getting a 46-year-old classic International C1800 fire engine from a private collection being wound-up in Wellington, he had just one message for the team.

“Buy it, – just buy it. I’ll sort it.”

And he did.

But more than that, along with his donation of the vehicle, Mr Dixon sweet-talked his boss at Wilsons Bulk Transport for a favourable deal on their low-loader transporter and he travelled to Picton to pick it up and bring it home last weekend.

The classic vehicle is of a type that although never actually in-service with the Ashburton Volunteer Fire Brigade, did feature through the 1970s as an impressive type used by some major New Zealand brigades. It features a very large capacity pump and eventually saw out its last service years based with the fire unit in Mayfield, so does have a local connection.

In its roles with the museum it will become the working “daily driver”.

It’s the vehicle in which kids can dress up and have their photos taken, will perform PR duties for the museum, and become a usable working exhibit, saving wear and tear on the precious restored vintage and veteran fire appliances owned by the brigade through its museum.

Although Mr Dixon has no previous involvement with a fire brigade, he emerged late last year with a cheque to aid the museum’s fit-out and found himself becoming immersed in the goings-on with the project.

He’s now proudly “part of the team” and even wore his museum uniform to Picton.

The museum has its new display hall shell standing and is now moving on to joining up the new and existing buildings before fit-out work can commence.

The local brigade several years ago tasked a separate team under the chairmanship of ex-brigadesman David Eddington to redevelop and expand the complex at The Plains in Tinwald to be “the best brigade-owned fire museum display in New Zealand”.

With a wealth of activities taking place on a number of fronts behind the scenes, it is shaping up to be just that.