Fire service awards gold stars

Station Officer Graham Grace (50-Years Medal) and partner Frances Beniest followed by Station Officer Roger Crichton (25-Year Gold Star) and wife Barbara Crichton being piped through Guard of Honour. Executive officers of fire and emergency, Howick Volunteer Crew, families and friends.

Two firefighters out of Howick Fire Station have been recognised for long service.

Station Officer (SO) Graham Grace was awarded the 50-Year Gold Star and Station Officer Roger Crichton the 25 year Gold Star at a presentation ceremony by the Howick Volunteer Fire Brigade on March 27.

Crichton started with New Zealand Fire Service in 1996. Born in Tuatapere (near Invercargill) in 1958he moved to the UK in 1968 and lived in London with his father’s family. He also lived in Barry and Swansea  in South Wales where he met Barbara who he married in 1977. The couple had three daughters – Clare, Vicki and Christina.

He completed a four-year building apprentice in the UK and returned to NZ with his family in October 1994. Crichton worked as a carpenter/builder on his return to NZ and joined the New Zealand Fire Service in February 1996. He spent all his time at Howick Station as a volunteer becoming a senior fire fighter in July 1998 and Station Officer from November 2007 – April 2008 and then Deputy chief of the brigade.

In 2012 Crichton retrained as a building surveyor and become registered in 2014.

Grace started with the Auckland Metropolitan Fire Board (AMFB) in July 1970 and upon his retirement from the NZ Fire Service as a permanent officer in April 2018 was approached to come on board as a volunteer with their brigade to assist with their training and operational support.

He grew up in Auckland and left school at the age of 15 and began his working life in Auckland spending two years in the plumbing and building supply industry followed by most of the next year in the South Island fruit picking.

Upon returning to Auckland, he needed to find employment and went for three interviews in one day and was offered two of those positions. He took the position as a recruit with the AMFB. In July 1970, aged 18, he started work as a career firefighter.

“The fitness assessment at my interview involved carrying the Station Officer across the engine room and back again. Along with 24 others we then began six weeks of basic training at Mt Wellington Fire Station wearing overalls, gumboots and a beret.

“Our job was learning how to put out fires, save lives, protect property. Woollen jackets, cork helmets, axes in leather holsters were standard issue uniform when young men joined the fire service five decades ago. Heavy steel cylinders were used for breathing apparatus – these were twice the weight of the aluminium tanks used today.

Due to the development and growth in Otara, Grace was transferred there for four years as a senior fireman, followed by a year at Howick Station in 1989 when the first permanent service opened in the area.

He was then back to Manukau for nine years as a Rescue Tender, Aerial Appliance operator followed by a further eight years at Otara.

Upon his completion of SO training he was appointed as Station Officer at St Heliers for about three years.

“As I lived locally in Howick, when an opportunity became available to work at Howick Station I applied and succeeded, stationed at Howick for about 15 years until my transition to being a Volunteer with the Howick Brigade.

“So here I am now serving time as a volunteer helping those newbies and still catching up with work mate at the different jobs I attend.

“As to my personal life and times during those 50 years. I am proud to have been married and have two children, my son Clinton, 47, and daughter Renee, 43. My current partner Frances and I have been together for 20 years she has two children – daughter Jacqui, 44, and son Daniel, 42.”

Grace is the 236th member of the Gold Star Association to receive the Double Gold Star / 50 year medal in 147 years in NZ.