After 35 + years, Darrell is retiring as a volunteer operational firefighter. Darrell spent 17 years in the Kamo Brigade and the last 18.5 years out at Ruakaka, where he has been the Chief Fire Officer for the past 13 years.
Talking with Darrell, he says the highlights have been many – the people he’s worked with, competing in Waterway competitions around the country for pretty much 32 of the 35 years, stairclimbing with his brother Steve around the world, including the World Trade Center climb in New York, three years in a row, and marching in the St Paddy’s Day parade in New York with 2000 New York Fire Firefighters, conferences, open days and everything in between.
Darrell also pays tribute to Marlene, who has been part of the Brigade environment for all the time he’s been a member. He says, “Marlene puts everyone else before herself, has a massive work ethic and a great sense for organising events, dinners, fundraisers. We’ve brought our kids, Amy, and Tessa, up in that welcoming and fun environment, which has contributed to making us the family we are today. There is no way that I could have stuck it out for so long without Marlene’s support and shoulder to lean on after some of the tough calls. Marlene and I have also met and made some of the best friends around the country and the world. Being a firefighter means you are part of a club with close ties to each other, no matter where you’re from or what type of firefighting you specialise in.”
Darrell grew up behind the Whangarei Fire Station, where his dad, Bruce, was a paid firefighter, so firefighting runs in his blood. Darrell recalls it was a great community down behind the station in the station houses. He is most proud of serving time, training, and going to fire calls with his dad, Bruce and his brother, Steve.
One memorable call-out was the Kamo supermarket fire. Darrell recalls, “The building was well involved with fire, and another Firey, Ray Davidson, and I entered the storeroom to fight the fire. Once we knocked down the flames in the storeroom, we started advancing towards the main building. Ray suddenly fell back into my arms, knocked clean out. I managed to reach over, shut the nozzle off and drag him about 4 metres to the outside of the building. He was out for about 15 minutes, and it turned out, we found out in the investigation, that it was a large can of baked beans in a box that had hit him square on his helmet and knocked him out good and proper!”
Darrell says, “There are many more memories, but the ones that linger are all the great times with great people. Now it’s time to step aside and let the next generation of leaders take care of the Brigade and community. We’ve had a succession plan in place for a while and pushed the button on it earlier this year. I am very proud of what we’ve contributed and achieved over the last 35 + years and extremely confident and proud of the current and emerging leadership of the Ruakaka Brigade. I know they’ll continue to serve and protect the community well.