Allan Roberts always wanted to be a firefighter.

But being 5'4" (162cm) presented its challenges for becoming either a firefighter or a truck driver, another career aspiration for Roberts.

"I couldn't reach the pedals," he said.

After retiring in 2005 after 33 years as the head printer at the Whanganui Chronicle, Roberts was still fascinated by the world of firefighting and, at 80 years old, he finally got to fulfill his dream for an afternoon.

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On Wednesday, Roberts celebrated his 80th birthday with his wife Barbara and three daughters Janet, Carron and Barbara.

Carron, who travelled down from Tauranga to surprise her father, wrote to the Whanganui Fire Brigade asking if Roberts could have a look around.

Whanganui senior station officer Jes Sorensen invited Roberts to come to the station for the afternoon to have a tour, try on a firefighter's uniform and go for a ride in a fire engine.

"I've waited 80 years for this... I've had a marvellous day today," Roberts said.

Roberts often follows fire appliances around if he sees them out and about in Whanganui and was very excited to be given the opportunity.

One of his first encounters with a fire engine was in 1988 when the brigade parked their truck next to where Roberts' Holden Kingswood was parked to carry out an exercise.

The ladder fell off the truck and onto the car, squashing the roof onto the dashboard.

It is a story that is still told at the station today.

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