Veteran fire ace Selwyn bows out

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Pictured: Selwyn Allred at the Methven Fire Station.

By Mick Jensen

There will be no more call-outs for Selwyn Allred.

He is bowing out after 50 years of service to the Methven Volunteer Fire Brigade.

The 68-year-old has been the town’s fire chief for the last 21 years and follows a family tradition and support for the local brigade that goes back nearly 100 years.

Selwyn’s father Cliff was a volunteer firefighter from 1948-64 and the brigade’s chief from 1953-59, and his grandfather, Arthur, was on the original committee that helped establish the force in Methven.

Ironically, and in parallel to the Allred connection, the new fire chief is Brent Anderson, whose father David served as fire chief for 21 years before Selwyn Allred stepped into the role and whose grandfather also lent a hand with the brigade in the early days.

Now was a good time to let go and let the younger ones take over, said Selwyn Allred.

“I’ve done my dash and I’ve loved every minute of it,” he said.

Selwyn has juggled fire call out duties with day jobs that have included being a mechanic, meat worker, tour bus owner and, more recently, real estate agent.

His first big “baptism of fire” in the brigade came as a fresh-faced 19-year-old during a huge fire at the Woodhams seed and grain building.

Other memorable fire incidents included a fire that hit the main core of the hotel now known as the Methven Resort, a big fire in the Wareings yard that razed buildings, and a fire at Mt Somers that was swept by the wind down the Ashburton River.

Selwyn said he had gained a reputation for his record use of hoses at fire incidents.

“In the early days it was pretty simple to sign up for the brigade. Nowadays the vetting and testing process for new recruits is rigorous.”

He said the role of the rural firefighter had changed over the years.

“In simple terms, we used to put water on to vegetation and house fires to put them out. Now we’re also called for medical assists, motor vehicle rescue and even over the edge line rescues.

“Today’s firefighters need a much greater skillset and need to be able to handle modern hardware, breathing apparatus, defibrillators and hazardous substances.

“Firefighting has been a big part of my life and a passion, but it has become harder over time, with a lot more paperwork and training required.”

In the Mt Hutt Hall on Saturday, Mr Allred will be presented with a 50-year service award from top brass in the United Fire Brigades’ Association.

“It will be an emotional moment, but it’s the right time to bow out. I’ll just have to get use to clearing my mind of fire thoughts and move on to other things.”

Selwyn’s other passions are salmon fishing and travel and he will combine the two when he heads off on an annual visit to Alaska on Monday.

Other travel trips around the world have also included visits to fire stations in Japan, USA and Thailand, where he has enjoyed some friendly banter with fellow firefighters.