Time to hang up helmet and cool off

By Kyra Dawson

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END OF AN ERA: Senior firefighter Alan Dawick is retiring from the Rotorua Fire Brigade after 39 years of service. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
END OF AN ERA: Senior firefighter Alan Dawick is retiring from the Rotorua Fire Brigade after 39 years of service. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Alan Dawick can vividly recall the moment he realised the burning building he was in was "gonna blow".

It was 2011 and Rotorua's Warehouse Stationery was engulfed in an inferno.

"It was on fire in the back half of the building and we made entry through the front. Myself and another fireman were inside and the fire was getting bigger, it was getting hotter and it was getting to the stage where it was just going to spontaneously ignite the whole shop.

"[The other fireman] said to me, 'You can feel the heat just coming down and down and down,' and it just got hotter and we decided it was getting too hot to be there because we knew what was going to happen.

"It's one of those things that experience tells you and just after we got out, it was less than two minutes and the whole shop just spontaneously ignited because everything else in there was just so hot.

"I told the driver to get his camera out because it was gonna blow and you don't often see that, when it just blows straight out the front, and that's what happened."

After 39 years in the Rotorua Fire Brigade the senior firefighter has decided to hang up his helmet on Wednesday and cool off.

"It's time for me to leave here, I'm not going to retire completely. Hopefully I'm going to work part-time driving shuttles and other than that I'm going to be fishing and golfing."

Mr Dawick worked as a volunteer from the age of 30 for 15 months before he got the opportunity to join the fire brigade permanently.

"I was supposed to be doing heavy engineering because that was my trade, but when I first started working at Mills-Tui Rotorua [an engineering/construction company] they said they wanted me to build a fire engine instead. It was the first one they had ever built."

Then he heard they were looking for volunteers at the fire brigade and decided to join.

"I remember my first job, it was a garage fire and it was going lickety-split.

"I can remember the senior fireman that I was under and he just said, 'Watch this,' and this garage fire is just going end to end inside and he just put the hose in and did a big figure of eight for about 5-10s and he turns it off.

"I thought, 'What the hell are you turning it off for?' And he said, 'Watch,' and the whole thing just went out and it was then I found out what steam does.

"From that day I was just hooked on the job because you never knew, and even now, you never know what you're going to and that's part of the beauty of the job." He said the funniest job he ever had was rescuing a cat up a power pole.

"The owner reckoned it had been there for a couple of days and it wouldn't come down.

"They finally called us and we eventually went out and put a ladder up in between the wires and got hold of the cat, got scratched, gave it to the owners and the thing just went straight back up the pole! And the boss just went, 'Put the ladder back on the truck and let's get out of here, we are not doing it again.'"

Mr Dawick said he was definitely going to miss the job, even the jokes the fellow firefighters played on each other.

"Because of this article I will have to bring in a cake. Anytime one of us is in the paper we have to bring a cake to work.

"I will miss the comradeship, I can't explain it to anybody, but the fire service is the best job I have ever had in my life."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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