A plaque in memory of fallen firefighter Derek Lovell will remind new recruits at Hamilton central fire station of the dangers of their job, reported the Waikato Times today.
The plaque was unveiled at the Hamilton Central Fire Station last night by Waikato area manager Roy Breeze, who gave a heartfelt speech to his colleagues, including the seven firemen injured in the Icepak Coolstore blaze at Tamahere a year ago this Sunday. Senior Station Officer Derek Lovell lost his life in the explosion. His widow Milli was at the plaque ceremony, the paper reported.
Injured firefighters Dennis Wells, Cameron Grylls and Alvan Walker have since returned to the frontline.
Merv Neil, David Beanland, Adrian Brown and Brian Halford are still recovering from their injuries.
Mr Neil, who suffered burns to 71 per cent of his body, said the terrible fire had made him take nothing for granted.
“I think how lucky I am to be able to live another life, basically.”
Mr Walker said the trauma of the events of April 5 2008 was still deeply ingrained.
Mr Breeze said the Tamahere blaze was etched in everyone’s minds and would sit alongside the fatal ICI chemical fire in Auckland in 1984 as one of the country’s most serious. “(Icepak) shook the local community and the greater firefighter community and changed our families’ lives (forever) … it has left a trail of physical and emotional scarring not only amongst firefighters but the Hamilton community.”
However, Mr Breeze said, fighting tears, the worst part was Mr Lovell losing his life. He had been a man with a huge amount of mana, an infectious smile and had the respect of everyone.
The plaque was handed to Hamilton Station Officer Darren Bowler driver of the second fire engine at the scene who hung it in pride of place in the station’s engine bay.
“The plaque will serve as a reminder of the intrinsic dangers of being a firefighter … and in years to come, as (new) recruits carry out their jobs and see the plaque and ask `who was Derek Lovell?’ we will be able to tell them he was one of our best firefighters and our friend,” Mr Breeze said.
Central Lakes assistant area manager John Booth presented a photo of the appliance Mr Lovell mainly rode on.
(Waikato Times photo by Mark Taylor)