Newsmaker: Richard Horn

This week's Newsmaker is Rotorua District Council deputy principal rural fire officer Richard Horn.

Tell us about yourself.

I will have been married to Maree Hopkins-Horn for 17 years this March, with two lovely daughters Mikaela, 15 and Jade, 9 and nephew Anton, 13, who is Whangai.

Majority of our interests are whanau related and involve as much quality time together as possible as work schedules can be quite hectic at times. We have set our home up to be able to accommodate and enjoy the company of extended whanau and friends, young and old.

Tell us about your role as the Rotorua District Council's deputy principal rural fire officer.

I'm responsible for co-coordinating unit standard training with our three volunteer fire forces - Lake Rotoiti, Lake Okareka and Lake Tarawera - and our 30 rural firefighters at Castlecorp.

I issue fire permits throughout the fire season and I'm first response for fires in Rotorua District Council areas.

This involves taking charge and co-ordinating fire suppression of vegetation fires under our jurisdiction. This can be at any time of the day or night and more often than not is outside normal working hours.

What other positions have you held?

I have been an employee of the council for 26 years this February. I started straight from school as a horticultural apprentice and from there have taken opportunities to further my knowledge and skills within the horticultural area, and for the last 16 years rural fire sectors.

What attracted you to firefighting?

I am fortunate to be a part of a great team and as a consequence love my work. I have the opportunity on a daily basis to meet and work with a wide range of people within our community, and the fire permit inspection process means I get to spend time in some lovely parts of our district.

What is the best aspect of your job?

If it were not for my dedicated public gardens team and support from my Castlecorp general manager Mike Davies I would not be able to wear the other hats that I have for the council.

I'm public gardens foreperson with 17 full-time staff and have a major events operational role for Castlecorp, currently working on Raggamuffin festival, Te Matatini national kapa haka champs and the Lakeside concert.

What do you find most challenging about your role?

As well as being away from family this work is very arduous with long days in a very testing environment. A certain

level of fitness and experience is a requirement but there is also the mental aspect and the ability to keep a clear

head in situations that many would find difficult.

Have you been overseas to fight fires?

I am part of a group of 30 New Zealand Response Team rural firefighters who are able to respond at short notice to vegetation fires both nationally and internationally, and have been deployed elsewhere in New Zealand, as have others from our council. Right now our group of 10 most experienced firefighters has been made available if required for deployment to help our neighbours in Australia.

During February 2010 we deployed crews to the far north to help with a large fire in Kaimaumau and then again in December of that year we sent a crew to the lower South Island to help with a large fire which meant the team spending Christmas there.

What goes through your mind when you see what's happening over in Australia with all the bush fires?

It has been hard watching the destruction in Australia especially in recent weeks. Some of the fires in Australia can have a fire front 50 or more kilometres long, like from Rotorua to half way to Hamilton, with the wind sending embers many kilometres from the fire front. Previous Canterbury events demonstrated the destruction and speed these fires can travel and it's hard to comprehend it unless you've experienced it first-hand.

Tell us three things about yourself that most people wouldn't know.

I'm taller than I look.

I met Maree while we were doing our horticultural apprenticeships with the council and it was love at first sight . . . for her.

In 2013 I will give some time to the youth of Rotorua and will be helping with a couple of youth programmes.


- Rotorua Daily Post

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