For 14 years now local firefighter Dan Mills has been one of the first to make it to the fire station downtown when the siren signals an emergency and volunteers converge from all directions.
And sometimes it’s a trial, Dan admits, to get there in the dead of night – from his Helen Place home a stone’s throw away – without his shorts inside out.
“It’s a bit of a blur until you’re in the seat of the (fire) truck and figure out what you’re doing.” And wearing, of course.
But he’s remained unfazed by any fashion crimes he may have committed over the years, and last Saturday was honoured with the NZ Fire Brigade’s Long Service Good Conduct (LSGC) medal at Raglan Volunteer Fire Service’s annual awards evening.
Local ward councillor Clint Baddeley presented the medal, thanking on behalf of the community all Raglan volunteers for their dedication but referring specifically to it being “Dan’s night”.
Dan, the father of two pre-schoolers, said it was “crazy” how fast the years had slipped by. The 42-year-old senior station officer later told the Chronicle he can’t make it out the door quite as speedily as before having had children, but says he still does okay.
He reckons he only joined Raglan’s volunteer brigade because his brother – who left town soon after – got him into it. Despite that, he was keen to “do something for the community” and values the sense of camaraderie it’s given him.
Perhaps better known around town as the local signwriter, Dan believes the support he gets for his business deserves some payback on his part, and says “in no way” has firefighting been a hard slog. In fact he met his wife Leanna – one of two female firefighters locally and due for her LSGC medal next year – through the Raglan brigade.
Now when the pager goes it’s a toss-up as to which one of them heads to the station, leaving the other behind to mind daughters Anabelle and Sofia. A recent house fire during the day however – when they were both needed because not many volunteers were available at the time – saw them hurriedly arrange childcare with a neighbour.
It was one of only six times this year they’ve been out together on the truck, says Leanna. Another was to a big job, a scrub fire, and half a dozen kids including Anabelle and Sofia were minded by volunteer John Oetzel’s wife.
As it turned out they were away for hours, recalls Leanna. “I was breastfeeding and had to duck back (to feed Sofia).”
Not only were members of the local service honoured with annual awards at Saturday’s event, but for the first time Raglan employers were also acknowledged for allowing members to leave work suddenly for callouts. Fire chief Kevin Holmes pointed out, however, the town was “unique” in that most of its members were self-employed.
He also revealed that this year has been the busiest in the brigade’s 60-year history with 106 callouts to date. “It is only the third time we have exceeded 100 calls in a calendar year…
“We have also been busy with training courses on weekends and a number of our members have climbed ranks within the brigade as a result of completing ongoing training.”