Topic: Brigade a way of life for Chief Moe

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Hauraki Herald reporter Jill Cleave talks with charismatic Waihi Fire Chief, Moe Stevens. Her story appeared in the Hauraki Herald on 18 March 2011.

BORN and bred in Waihi, Moe Stevens is a wellknown face in town and, since his appearance in television commercials for the Rugby World Cup, the rest of the country as well.

Moe’s big television moment came earlier this year when the Waihi Fire Brigade was approached by the town’s junior rugby club and asked to appear in advertisements for the Rugby World Cup. ‘‘The rugby club gained a good contribution from the advertising company and we were only too pleased to give them a hand making the ads,’’ he said.

Moe, who has been in the brigade since 1979, attended South School and Waihi College before leaving school and signing on as a carpenter joinery apprentice. After a 12-month stint in Australia he returned to New Zealand and joined the Post Office to become a maintenance carpenter but there wasn’t a job going so he ended up becoming a linesman and stayed for 32 years. He took redundancy ‘‘12 or 13 years ago’’ and now works as a carpenter for SG Baker Ltd.

Moe said he was originally pressured into joining the fire brigade by Grant Galley, the present Deputy Fire Chief, and his school mate Jimmy Measures. ‘‘I didn’t really think it was a good idea to be getting out of bed in the middle of the night but my wife had grown up in the brigade – her father was a firefighter for 12 years in Waihi – and she thought it would be good for our children to grow up in that atmosphere,’’ he said.

He married Annette in 1975 and together they have three children, daughters Misty and Crystal and son Kris, the latter having belonged to the brigade for 12 years. Moe said the brigade was like a big family and once you were in, it was hard to get out. ‘‘I have been involved with the Goldfields, a local competition for firemen, which covers from Huntly to Coromandel brigades and still go to competition days and do the time-keeping,’’ he said.

He is past president of the Auckland Provincial Fire Brigades Association, which covers from Turangi to Kaitaia, and is currently senior vice president of the Auckland Gold Star Association. He said only 5 per cent of those who joined the service became Gold Star holders and most of them were older because to be a Gold Star member a firefighter must be in the service for 25 years. ‘‘I will become president in September and that will entail presenting Gold Stars across the district which is an honour in itself,’’ he said.

When asked about the most exciting job he had been on, he said every time the siren went and he jumped in the engine and roared off down the road with lights flashing and siren blaring, it was exciting. ‘‘It is what you find when you get to the end of the trip that is the biggest blow.’’ He remembers going out to a fire in a two-storey house which sadly ended with five people losing their lives.

He said deaths in traffic accidents involving alcohol were more common now. ‘‘I find it interesting that they all go into a huddle crying and carrying on and two months down the track nothing has changed.’’ He said because they were often dealing with tragedy, there was a certain black humour among firefighters. ‘‘I remember going to a house fire which was contained to one room of a house and was mostly smoke damage. One of the men came out of the house carrying a big birdcage and said ‘Look at this, it’s the biggest budgie I have ever seen’. There in the bottom of the cage was a very dead, very big cockatoo,’’ he said with a laugh.

Moe believes the fire brigade is a way of life and a way to give something back to the community. ‘‘We turn out for any fundraising events around town and go to kindies and schools, give the kids rides on the engine, all that sort of thing,’’ he said.

 

 www.haurakiherald.co.nz

 

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Brigade a way of life for Chief Moe


First Names:Moe
Last Name:Stevens
Place of Birth:Waihi (N.Z.)