PROUD MOMENT: United Fire Brigades’ Association president Merv George replaces Barry Kimber’s Gold Star with the 50 Year Medal at Saturday night’s function. 191071BD
By Dean Taylor
Words alone were not enough as dignitaries representing fire-fighters, the Government and Waipa District tried to express gratitude to Te Awamutu fire-fighter Barry Kimber for giving 50 years voluntary service to his community.
Mr Kimber, and his wife Mary, were guests of honour at Saturday night’s function - one of the rarest events in the organisation.
United Fire Brigades’ Association (UFBA) president Merv George was careful to ensure no-one at the function underestimated the significance of the occasion. He said Mr Kimber’s 50 Year Medal was just the 53rd ever awarded in New Zealand in the UFBA’s 129 year history, an award most brigades in New Zealand would never have the opportunity to celebrate.
Mr George paid a special tribute to the Te Awamutu Brigade for its outstanding achievements over it 94 year history, including extraordinary leaders, unbelievable service to the community, magnificent competition teams and fantastic fire station - but said the history of service was particularly impressive.
Te Awamutu has 30 UFBA Gold Star members for 25 years of service, and now a 50 Year Medal member to illustrate the extraordinary level of service Te Awamutu firefighters give to their community.
Mr George said the length of Mr Kimber’s service translated into 3700 scheduled musters, or over 11,000 hours or five-and-a-half working years of training - plus the emergency callouts, fundraising events, working bees, public relations events and other demands on a firefighter’s time.
As part of recognising the service of members, the UFBA also recognises the important role of partners and families of firefighters.
Mr George said without that support, especially in the volunteer brigades, the service would struggle to exist. He thanked Mrs Kimber for her 50 years service also to the cause and presented her with a certificate of appreciation from the association.
Fire Service Commission deputy chairman Terry Scott said it was an honour for him to be able to represent the commission at Mr Kimber’s award evening. He said the event should be recognised as one of the most special community celebrations - a point reinforced by deputy mayor Peter Lee (himself a Gold Star member) when he spoke on behalf of the people of Te Awamutu and Waipa.
Mr Scott, a volunteer and professional fire-fighter of 45 years, said while the conditions of service may have changed over 50 years, but the level of commitment and sacrifice hadn’t. He also added his thanks to the employers of volunteer firefighters, people he says are often overlooked when it comes to thanking those who make the volunteer brigades possible. Mr Scott said the commission paid him the highest tribute, and wished Mr Kimber the respect and admiration of the community he deserved in the years ahead.
Mr Lee, Regional Commander Bay Waikato Owen Kinsella and Gold Star Association president Rex Cotter added their congratulations, thanks and tributes to the evening. Mr Lee said Waipa District needed to recognise Mr Kimber’s dedication to his community - a matter he intended to raise at Council level.
A lighter side to 50 years of firefighting was provided by Mr Kimber’s great mate, and former Te Awamutu Fire Chief, Robbie Morris. Mr Morris said there were many good times, funny times and great friendships made amongst the serious side of being a firefighter.
In reply Mr Kimber said when he looks back over the 50 years, it is the camaraderie and friendships which come to mind.
He said it humbled him to be honoured for something he would do all over again.