Five firefighters and people who assisted eight Hamilton firefighters injured in the fatal coolstore explosion at Tamahere two years ago are to be recognised in an official ceremony later this month.
The Governor-General, Sir Anand Satyanand, and Fire Service top brass will hold a ceremony at Tamahere on April 21 (reported earlier here) to thank those who played a part in helping after the Icepak Coolstore explosion which claimed the life of Senior Station Officer Derek Lovell and injured seven of his colleagues on April 5, 2008.
Waikato area fire manager Roy Breeze said five firefighters would receive internal NZ Fire Service Certificates of Commendation which acknowledge “instances of outstanding, meritorious service and exceptional skills and abilities”, reported the Waikato Times.
There was no provision for recognising bravery by groups or recognising people who had been injured, he said.
Mr Breeze, and Waikato-Bay of Plenty fire service managers Gary Talbot, Martin Berryman, Owen Kinsella and union leader Peter Hallett received Queen’s Service Medals for their outstanding leadership and management of the incident and are to be invested this month.
A number of Tamahere residents, who were medical professionals, were at the annual pumpkin night at nearby Tamahere Model School when the coolstore exploded, and ran to help, as did other neighbours and witnesses. Mr Breeze said they would receive recognition as would the many others, including medical staff involved in follow-up support.
“Many people made outstanding contributions on the day of the explosion, and over the following two years, so the commemoration is set as part of a wider programme to recognise as many people as possible,” Mr Breeze said.
“We have sent out about 150 personal invites so far.”
Mr Breeze said despite their efforts they had not been able to account for all those who helped their firefighters so the fire service was reluctant to hand out bravery awards in case some people were left out.
Mr Breeze said the rescuers, and actions of Waikato Hospital staff, proved crucial to his firefighters’ survival.
“Without a doubt the actions, both immediately and through to that instant medical care, saved two or three more lives and it just affected such a huge number of people.”
A plaque, a memorial tree – which flowers in April – and seat would be erected near the Tamahere Community Hall.
So far about 650 people, including pupils from Tamahere Model School, were expected at the ceremony.
School principal Waveney Parker was pleased to hear news of the ceremony because people in the community had felt those who had helped on the day deserved recognition.
“People have been saying that they wanted to honour the people that helped out at the time … on the night that the fire occurred it was certainly a big night for the school and that’s one of the reasons why it’s being held here.
“It will be a special occasion.”