Experienced fire chief joins crew

By Amy McGillivray

There is a new fire chief in town - and one of his first jobs will be to replace one of his team who retired today.

Murray Binning took over the role of New Zealand Fire Service Bay of Plenty Coast area manager last week and Tauranga fire safety officer Ken McKeagg retires from the service today.

Mr Binning's new role was previously held by Ron Devlin, who was promoted to Assistant National Commander and region manager. Mr Devlin has been in Queensland for the week to observe how firefighters there are handling the flooding in the state and is expected home this weekend.

Mr Binning has made the move from Auckland where he has carried out 42 years of service in the fire brigade.

"The Bay of Plenty is a wonderful part of the country to move to and in terms of the fire service, from what I see, it's an energetic and vibrant part of the New Zealand Fire Service."

He signed up as a firefighter at the age of 18 and rode the trucks at all of Auckland's stations but was most recently the chief fire safety officer for the Auckland and Northland region.

Mr Binning said he was looking forward to the new challenge and he was confident he had plenty to contribute.

The first two weeks in the job have been largely centred on learning the area and visiting as many of the 15 volunteer fire brigades as possible.

"It never ceases to amaze me, the volunteerism in this organisation. It just blows me away," he said. "Supporting volunteerism is absolutely critical and it's important for the volunteers to know that's really high on our agenda."

Mr Binning was involved in projects aimed at reducing the number of fires and was looking forward to seeing what could be implemented in Tauranga.

Fire statistics had been declining but natural hazard, hazardous substance and special service call-outs were increasing, he said.



Meanwhile, Mr McKeagg retired today after 30 years.

Mr McKeagg's career began in Tauranga in 1969 where he stayed until 1980 when he moved to the Hamilton fire brigade.

In 1986, he left the fire brigade for a job as fire protection officer at the Ministry of Works but returned to the service in 1999.

Mr McKeagg said he had seen a lot of change during his career, including the huge growth of his home town, Tauranga.

"When I left in 1980 it was a little town. Quite a peaceful place. When I came back in 2006, it was a mad house. I like Tauranga. Tauranga's nice, it's busy. Sometimes too busy. It's not the quiet place it used to be."

He aims to take it easy for a few months then decide what to do next. "I just want to do something new and I will do something new something different."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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