The ringing of the fire alarm was followed by a ring of another kind at a Whangarei primary school yesterday, as a firefighter proposed to his teacher sweetheart in front of the whole school.

Rob Wilson had planned his proposal to Kamo Primary School teacher Sheldon Thomson for over a month, with staff at the Fire Service and the school in on the act.

A banner with "Miss Thomson, will you marry me?" unfurled from a fire truck, sending the hundreds of pupils gathered on the netball court for a fire drill into raptures.

Mr Wilson's floral "allergies" had him wiping the tears away as the proposal went off without a hitch. "School and work management got it all under way. It's been perfect."

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The surprise proposal came after a fire evacuation drill for the students.

Mr Wilson bravely went where few modern males venture alone - engagement ring shopping - but said his plan nearly unravelled when the box got wet in his gym bag. "I don't know how to explain it. It's a cluster ring, it's white gold, and it cost me an arm and a leg."

The couple had been dating for 18 months after they "caught eyes across a bar in Auckland and went from there," Mr Wilson said.

In true firefighter style, he was prepared for the worst.

"We joked if she said no, I dunno how fast we could establish water and get it going towards her."

Miss Thomson was "unbelievably surprised and still shaking", but said the gesture was typical of her hyper-romantic partner who often sent flowers and took her on spontaneous dates.