Nikki Wilson pins a Gold Star to her father Rex Wilson's jacket. Photo / Frits Schouten
Paihia fire chief Rex Wilson with his mother Barbara Wilson, of Hastings. Photo / Frits Schouten
Fiona Wilson cuts a cake shaped like a Gold Star medal while husband Rex Wilson looks on. Photo / Frits Schouten
Volunteer chief fire officer Rex Wilson has been honoured for a quarter century's service to the Paihia community.
About 120 firefighters plus members of Wilson's family from around the North Island gathered at Paihia Fire Station recently to celebrate his award.
His Gold Star medal was presented by United Fire Brigades Association representative Henry Nissen, who was Paihia's fire chief when Wilson first signed up as a volunteer.
Wilson has headed the brigade for the past six years, after taking over from Shane Schrafft in 2015.
His reason for giving so much time and energy to the brigade was simple.
''People say they do it for the community but I do it for me, for the satisfaction I get from helping the community. And being chief is cool because you get to support other brigade members to do that as well.''
Wilson said no particular callout stood out from the past 25 years — the minor incidents could be just as memorable as big fires and natural disasters — but tsunami warnings, with the large numbers of people evacuated from vulnerable areas, were the Paihia brigade's biggest logistical nightmare.
''But people are starting to get it. They know Civil Defence doesn't set the alarms off lightly.''
Wilson said everyone should consider joining: ''We need people from all walks of life and it's just so satisfying.''
The Paihia gift shop owner is also an accomplished athlete who competed in the marathon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and ran in long-distance events at three Commonwealth Games.
The 60-year-old is still one of the fastest firefighters in Northland in the annual race up the 1103 steps of Auckland's Sky Tower.