Chief fire officer Tyrone Burrowes has just clocked up 25 years with the Rakaia Volunteer Fire Brigade.
He was presented his 25-year Gold Star and a Brigade Life Honorary Medal by United Fire Brigade Association and Canterbury Gold Star Association’s Chris Price, of the Ashburton Fire Brigade, at a ceremony last week.
“It was an honour to have someone I have known for a long time present my Gold Star,” Tyrone said.
Also there were Fire and Emergency New Zealand area commander Steven Greenyer, Canterbury Provincial Brigades’ Association’s Kath Love and Ashburton District deputy mayor Liz McMillan.
Tyrone, 46, joined the brigade when he was 21. He was encouraged to join by senior firefighters Ben and Darryl Nelson in October 1995 and hasn’t looked back.
He can’t remember his very first call out but said the uniform of the day was a whatever gear fitted(suitable for a house fire) consisted of yellow leggings with a black woollen bunker coat, he said.
It would be five or six years until he attended his first structural fire.
Tyrone is a Rakaia-lad through and through. He and two sisters were raised in the area.
His parents Rodger and Rayleen bought the Rakaia Mobil service station in 1994, after many years farming alongside Rodger’s brother Murray.
Tyrone, who started as a worker, has since bought majority shares in the business.
He was fortunate to be an international exchange student to Portland, Oregan in his high school years and has travelled extensively since then. He did his OE early in his 20s visiting Asia, Europe, Norway and Australia.
He has also revisited his host family in Portland many times since including to attend the graduation of his host-brother, who is four years younger, and then his wedding. His host mother sadly died of cancer two years ago.
As well as taking on the chief fire officer role, Tyrone was on the Canterbury Provincial Fire Brigade Association for six years organising competitions and training camps and offering support or a voice to members in the district.
He was president in 2017/18, then past president and during his time made several Gold Star presentations. experience to get around the Canterbury area,
The brigade, which is a first responders brigade, has a crew of 22 and, as in other areas, finds day shift the hardest to crew as more firefighters work outside the district.
Last year they had 175 call outs from January 1 to December 31. This year, as they head into their busy summer season they are slightly down on last year’s figure. There were 151 this time last year, compared to 128 this year, although the four week lockdown earlier this year may have helped.
They attend fires, vehicle accidents and increasingly more medical incidents. Their tanker was often used to help other areas and the brigade is second truck called out to any alarm at Synlait milk plant, near Dunsandel.
The Rakaia River bridge, at the edge of town, and its neighbouring overhead rail bridge were the major risk in the district, with the busy State Highway One traffic having to be controlled or detoured in any accident, Tyrone said.
One of his early fatality callouts was to a head-on vehicle crash on the overhead bridge. As a newbie he was on traffic control duties so was shielded from the crash scene.
Tyrone took over from former Rakaia fire chief, the late Donald Dunlea four years ago and is already ensuring there is some succession planning in place to upskill the next generation of firefighters in the area.
He’s grateful for those who were able to volunteer and to businesses with workers who volunteered. There was a good mix of experienced crew from Ross Moore to senior firefighter Jill Tomlin, as well as four new recruits.