Mark Bentham (pictured) was one of the youngest chief fire officers in the country to be appointed to that job 31 years ago.

The 25-year-old had only been in the brigade for three years when, in 1985, he was made chief fire officer of the Piopio Volunteer Fire Brigade - a role he was in for about 16 years.

In the small Waikato town, there were not many fires and the brigade mainly attended motor vehicle accidents.


One of his proudest moments was helping fundraise $50,000 in one day for a "jaws of life" machine in 1995, and a few years later, he helped the brigade gain a new building.
In 2007, he earned his 25-year gold star "badge for being good" for his long service to the brigade.

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Mr Bentham said he "looked like a stunned mullet" when he found out he was being awarded the Queen's Service Medal.

Now retired in Tauranga, Mr Bentham spends his time with his family and works part time delivering trucks.

Mark Bentham - Queen's Service Medal

* Joined Piopio Fire Brigade in 1982.

* Appointed chief fire officer in 1985 at 25 years old, one of the youngest in the country at the time.

* Key role in fundraising for a set of "jaws of life" and a second emergency response vehicle for the brigade, as well as the purchase of land for the current site and building of new station.

* Founding member of Piopio Community and District Charitable Trust and chairman for a number of years.

* Supported schools, sports clubs and community organisations through his business Progress Transport.