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Fire brigade celebrates 50 years

Fire fighters 1996 2-732To most people the sound of the siren puts fear into their hearts, but anyone in Wood Street, apart from being deafened, see men and women coming from all directions to congregate at the building at the end of the shops, followed by the sight of the fire engine and water tanker as they come thundering out and race off to an incident somewhere in the area.

The Mangawhai Fire Fighting Unit was established at a meeting held on August 8, 1965 with first chairman Mr D. Thompson heading a dozen members of the public. A trailer was used to carry equipment donated by the Otamatea County Council.

The first fire was reported on September 15, 1965 – a gorse scrub fire endangering two houses, addresses unknown.

In 1967 the unit was looking for a home. It was the first year of attempting to integrate with the New Zealand Fire Service.

After a lot of community fundraising the first block was laid in March 1973 and building was completed later that same year at a cost of $ 3,695.

In November 1978 the first fire engine arrived – a Nissan Patrol 4WD fitted with a Brown Brothers pump and a 200 gallon tank, allowing firefighting away from water tanks.

The unit continued to grow and October 1989 received a Commer fire appliance with a 500gpm pump, a cab to carry six men and locker space for carrying extra hoses and equipment.

By 1991 we had three fire appliances but home for only one. A fundraising committee was formed, plans were drawn up for an extra bay and work began in December 1992.

In 1995 the Mangawhai Community Trust approached the Order of St John and the brigade to see if a First Response Unit would fit into the fire station, and another extension was built. Mangawhai was then able to boast its own fire and St. John station.

So 1998 saw membership to the UFBA. Pagers were issued for the first time. The first brigade honours night was held, with Des Cullen being awarded for 25 years service.

During 2001 another more modern appliance arrived at the station – a computer.

The first female firefighter to join the brigade was Sandra Grayson in 2002 who continued on to the rank of Senior Fire Fighter.

A formal ceremony in September 2004 was held to mark the integration of the Mangawhai Volunteer Fire Brigade into the New Zealand Fire Service, thanks to the vision and effort of many, including Des and Lynne Partington, and Sarah Paget.

Des Partington retired as Chief Fire Officer in 1998 after 24 years with the brigade. The role of the new Chief Fire Officer is taken over by Maurie Doughty, with his new Deputy Chief Wayne Paget.

In 2012 the upper story of the Wood Street Station is found to be a ‘leaky building’ and is condemned. Funding for a new station at Mangawhai is not high on the priority list. Brigade members are presently working from a porta-com at the rear of the station.

Chief Fire Officer Maurie Doughty retired in 2014 after 18 years with the Brigade, but since 1974 on a regular intermittent basis. A Double Gold Star presentation was made to Maurie in conjunction with his retirement to mark a total of 54 years with the NZFS.

After facing many challenges the last couple of years, the brigade is moving forward under the temporary leadership of Maurie Doughty again.

Since its inception there have been five Chief Fire Officers: Reg Elphick (1969-1980); Raymond Wharfe (1980-1983); Des Cullen (1983-1999); Des Partington (1999-2008); Maurie Doughty (2008–2014).

The brigade offers a special and sincere thanks to the unsung heroes and supporters over the last 50 years, who often go unacknowledged. One to mention is Margaret Fish, who fed firefighters for many years at her own cost.

In the early years, a dedicated Bonnie Douglas would receive an incident call at the gas station she owned with husband Vic, also a fire fighter. She would sound the siren, proceed to the station, open up, and write information on the blackboard.

A jubilee to celebrate the last 50 years will be held on July 23, 2016. We’re hoping many past members can attend and look forward to catching up.

n For jubilee celebration details, see advert in classifieds.


1965 Mangawhai Fire Fighting Unit established

1965 Fire station built, phase 1

1978 First fire engine arrived, a Nissan Patrol 4WD

1989 Received an ex-Auckland Commer fire appliance

1992 Work begins on station expansion, phase 2

1995 First response joins the station, phase 3

1998 Des Cullen recognised after 25 years service

1999 Portable radios in all vehicles, telephone in main appliance

2001 The station gets a computer

2002 First female joins brigade

2004 Integration with the NZ Fire Service

2008 Des Partington retires after 24 years

2012 Top story of station condemned

2014 Maurie Doughty retires after 18 years

THE CREW: Mangawhai’s fire fighters, circa 1996. From left, Des Cullen, Des Partington, Warren Partington, Maurie Doughty, Buck Buchanan, Ben van der Griend, Brent Tonks, Murray Tonks, Wayne Paget, Tony Ganley, Mark Lenart, Harald Gardner, John Sunde.

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