Answering the siren calls for 56 years

Home team . . . Retired Balclutha firefighter Ian Ross says his wife Janet has always been a tremendous support.. PHOTO: NICK BROOK

NICK [email protected]

A 56-year career in volunteer fire-fighting was made possible by teamwork, recently retired veteran Ian Ross says.

‘‘My wife Janet was always a tremendous support. I’d never have got where I did without Janet and my family. Whenever the siren went off Janet would get the car out of the garage while I got dressed.’’

Ian ‘‘Geordie’’ Ross met Janet at South Otago High School and the couple moved to Waikaia shortly before he joined the Waikaia brigade in 1966.

‘‘There was a function welcoming us to the community and I got tapped on the shoulder by a local firefighter and told ‘Congratulations, you’re now a member of the Waikaia Volunteer Fire Brigade’.’’

Ian and Janet moved back to Balclutha in 1968 when the local fire station was on George St.

A professional mechanic and driver, Mr Ross found the lifestyle and demands of volunteer firefighting agreed with him and worked his way through the ranks and awards and into the new Charlotte St station in 1979.

‘‘There’s a good social life, we’ve met people over the 50 years who became lifelong friends,’’ Mr Ross said,

Mr Ross became the local training officer, and using controlled burns and industrial facilities at Ben Har, Finegand and the hospital, his trainees often found their skills were above and beyond what was covered in centralised training standards.

‘‘I like helping people in trouble. I’ve been involved with saving lives, with road crashes and smoke-effected people. When the siren goes you have no idea what you’re up for and in a small community, there’s a chance of knowing the people involved. The camaraderie of the station gets you through. We’d be diligent about debriefing after and unwinding together, especially after something troubling. Then Janet would be there to listen again when I got home.’’

A father of four with six grandchildren, Mr Ross was Balclutha deputy fire officer for 15 years and a long-serving president of the Otago Southland Fire Brigade’s Association.

He and Janet were regular officials at Fire Service athletic competitions.

Four years ago he received his medal for 50 years’ service and on June 30 this year , he was honoured with a retirement ceremony and award for his total of 56 years of emergency service to the community.

‘‘There have been a few changes, especially with the equipment. You’ve got to keep up with the changes and embrace all the training and competition opportunities. That’s what makes Fire and Emergency sharp and effective in the real situations.’’

‘We’ve met people over the 50 years who became lifelong friends.’