Two Mangonui Fire Brigade volunteers joined the ranks of Gold Star holders on Saturday night, although both took much longer than 25 years to do so.
Operational Support officers Logan Taylor and Colin Mercer had both taken extended breaks, Mr Taylor serving his entire 25 years at Mangonui while Mr Mercer had been part of several brigades, including Hamilton and Ōkaihau, before arriving at Doubtless Bay.
United Fire Brigades' Association president Joe Manihera told Saturday night's gathering that Messrs Taylor and Mercer were Mangonui's 16th and 17th Gold Star recipients, and while they were numbers 7800 and 7801 nationally, only eight per cent of volunteers reached the quarter-century milestone. Mr Manihera, who travelled from Invercargill to be there on Saturday night, said those who served as volunteer firefighters had every reason to be proud.
"You give up your time, you make sacrifices for others, and in the heat of the moment you do what has to be done to safeguard others," he said.
Fire and Emergency New Zealand was family, but the environment went much deeper than that. It was best described as whanaungatanga, similar to that seen in the police and the armed forces.
Principal northern rural fire officer Myles Taylor also congratulated the new Gold Star holders, and all who had received awards, for their service and their commitment to the brigade and their community, while Mike Kiely, president of the Auckland Provincial Gold Star Association, welcomed Messrs Taylor and Mercer to the ranks of those who had reached the milestone.
"Twenty-five years spent in a dangerous, challenging environment is an awesome achievement," he said.
Meanwhile senior firefighters Greg Beeson and Mark Donnelly were presented with 14-year good conduct and long service medals. Myles Taylor said 14 years was also a major milestone.
"You should be proud of this achievement and of your contribution to your community," he said.
Also recognised were Firefighter Parker Bellingham (five-year medal), Senior Firefighter Joseph Leslie and Operational Support Alan Moros (silver bars, 13 years), Operational Support Les Barclay (gold bar, 27 years), Senior Station Officer Andy Olsen (gold bar, 29 years), and Operational Support Bill Whitehorn (gold bar, 47 years).
Stuart Pedersen, who, along with Robin Walter, the Mangonui fire station, was awarded life membership of the brigade.
■ Mr Barclay is one of many volunteers around the country who have served more years than have been officially recognised. For many years he supported the Kaitaia Fire Brigade by sprinting from his auto-electric business, a short distance from the old station, to open the doors and write the crew's destination on a blackboard when the siren sounded.